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Monday, February 21, 2011
February 21, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 11:31 AM :: 6276 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Abercrombie: GE Tax hike will be People's Will

People’s Pulse: 68% oppose GE Tax hike

Abercrombie doesn’t want to hear from you about Civil Unions—but he will have to anyway

Hanabusa’s new Chief of Staff helped hide “kooky” Congressman’s mental illness

City does not have clearance to build rail line

As with anything related to the Honolulu's rail plan, this week's ceremonial groundbreaking and blessing comes with controversy. The anti-rail camp is preparing to show up and picket the ceremony. Leading the charge are nonprofit groups like the League of Women Voters and persistent rail critic Panos Prevedouros, who lost last year's special election to Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle after a previous failed run against former Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

"Carlisle will be having a Ceremonial Groundbreaking of the rail project, which means it is a joke," Prevedouros wrote in a mass e-mail on Friday. "If it was real, it would be the Groundbreaking Ceremony. Nevertheless, we plan to picket his fake event."

The event will be more pomp than substance, but it it's not exactly a "fake" groundbreaking. Last month, when the Federal Transit Administration issued a Record of Decision on the project, it enabled the city to begin some rail-related construction. But the city does not yet have clearance to build the actual rail line.

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CB: Road Paved for Raising the GET?

if the GET were raised for the next two consecutive fiscal years, the state would not only be able to pay for existing operations, it would be in the black.

Now, let's do a little reality check: The GET is probably — probably — not going to be increased this year…. (Beeecause?)

But, if Hawaii lawmakers want to resolve the state's financial problems relatively quickly, there is no greater single revenue vehicle than the GET, which accounted for 66.3 percent of the state's tax collections in 2009.

While a GET hike is not currently being proposed (more on that later), it hasn't been ruled out, either, and is increasingly being whispered about in Capitol corridors (and in the case of labor unions facing a new round of collective bargaining, sometimes shouted).

The more unpopular the current proposals to raise revenue and save money become — e.g., ending Medicare Part B reimbursements, taxing pensions, raising taxes on liquor, stopping state tax deductions, cutting social-service programs — the more attractive a GET hike becomes….

RELATED:  Abercrombie: GE Tax hike will be People's Will

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Legislators get mixed messages about spending cuts and raising taxes

Maui Democrat Rep. Joe Souki chuckles as he reads the new OmniTrak Group Inc. poll.

The statewide survey shows that we would like more good stuff from the state but don't want to pay more for it.

Specifically, 78 percent said they were against raising the state income tax and 68 percent didn't want the general excise tax raised either. Half didn't want government jobs cut, more than half said no to freezing wages, pensions or health benefits.

"What this shows is they are confused and we need leadership."  (In other words, we’ve got them confused and we can talk them into anything, for instance a GE Tax hike.  We truly are lords and masters over these ignorant peasants.)

Larry Price: The Legislature’s Flood Of Bills

RELATED: People’s Pulse: 68% oppose GE Tax hike

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Bob Jones: Dan Akaka should resign, let Abercrombie name replacement

If Akaka resigns, Gov. Neil Abercrombie gets a replacement pick. Given today’s players, that would have to be either Mufi Hannemann for good political sportsmanship, or Mazie Hirono or Colleen Hanabusa because they are there in Washington and know the game.

The wild card would be Ed Case. Unacceptable? You can’t say that because in an open 2012 field he could split the ticket as he did in the 2010 Congress primary. Why not bring him into the tent?

He’s not the game player he once was. Ask those who interview him these days. He’s not playing at the same level as his age mate, Dan Inouye. Nice as they come, but not tough enough and focused enough. He just got dumped from Veterans Affairs.

He’d likely get crushed in 2012 by either Lingle or Case as younger, more-Internet-active voters come along. Not just beaten, mind you, crushed.  The party leaders know this.

TOTALLY RELATED: Pensions, Rail, Earmarks: Abercrombie and Obama wage war on Inouye

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Alcohol, Tobacco and now sugar?  State becomes business partner to merchants of death

Before you start getting all weepy at how Hawaii is so gallant in its efforts, consider this: Hawaii takes money to tell people not to smoke. But Hawaii has a budget line item for tobacco tax collections. Hawaii has a financially vested interest in people smoking. If tobacco were such a terrible product that kills, wouldn’t you think the state would do everything in its power to stop this product from reaching the hands and lungs of its people? On the contrary, the state not only doesn’t stop access to cigarettes, etc., it profits from its use.

It’s the same duplicitous position with the soda and alcohol tax increase proposal. Gov. Abercrombie is proposing an increase on soda (and sugary drinks) that will raise $44 million with $10 million going to fight obesity and diabetes. Huh? So, with obesity and diabetes as the scourge of our Islands, the government is willing to keep 75 percent of monies raised and throw 25 percent back to those who are obese and diabetic. Nice. The state needs you to drink yourself fat and sugar imbalanced to balance its budget. It’s pretty much the same scenario for alcohol, too.

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DANGER: Barrel Tax Bills still alive

Facing down an $800 million budget shortfall, one of the many money-related proposals still on the table would shuffle about $14 million in projected annual barrel tax revenue [pdf] to special funds promoting energy and agricultural sustainability.

Both Senate Bill 722 and House Bill 1019 have passed out of their subject matter committees. That means they're still alive.  (And with an amendment, they can be changed into anything.)

It's hardly a surprise that the agriculture and energy committees would be open to spending more of the state's money on those initiatives. As originally conceived, the barrel tax was created to help Hawaii's self-sufficiency both by discouraging oil consumption and by promoting clean energy and local food programs. Clean energy advocates like the Blue Planet Foundation say the public is willing to support those programs even if it means higher taxes, and say that the barrel tax should be funneled back where it belongs.

REALITY FOR THOSE WHO DARE: Furloughs: How Unions and the DoE aim to co-opt protesting parents, Furloughs: Advertiser sides with “sustainability” billionaires against “Save our Sports”

(The barrel tax comes in about half way thru the article)

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Surge in elder abuse prompts more investigation, awareness

For the past two years, the prosecutor's office has seen increasing numbers of elder abuse cases. In 2008 -- when former Prosecutor Peter Carlisle created the elder abuse unit -- it had 37 cases; in 2009 it had 57; and last year it had 102. By the first half of February, the unit had 22 cases, putting it on track to double last year's caseload.

Experts say the increase is probably related to drugs, the bad economy and the growing senior population.

Part of the problem, Spallina said, is people don't like to talk about it. He compares the silence surrounding elder abuse to the silence around domestic violence about 30 years ago….

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Louie’s malpractice and personal injury firm salutes appointment at Attorney General

The firm concentrates its practice in civil litigation, including: personal injury matters, construction defect litigation, product liability, medical, legal and other professional malpractice, toxic torts, insurance coverage disputes, employment law, commercial litigation, contract disputes, aviation law, premises liability, prison litigation, directors and officers liability, and other areas.

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'Trafficking' bill needs clarity

A bill would create a statute entitled "Sex Trafficking" that would make sex trafficking of a person younger than 18 a Class A felony, except that such a law was enacted three years ago, without using the term "sex trafficking." Sex trafficking of those 18 or older would be a Class B felony, but state Attorney General David M. Louie points out that such a law already is on the books without the term of "trafficking."

In fact, Louie added, "confusing words" in the bill "would make it more difficult to obtain convictions than under current laws that prohibit the same conduct." Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro said at the Mizuno briefing that upgrading penalties for current laws "would be more effective," but the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery insists that existing laws are ineffective.

Lingle vetoed last year's bill because it did not "clearly define the prohibited conduct in a way that can be enforced and prosecuted in court." Her attorney general, Mark Bennett, then-city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle and the Honolulu Police Department opposed the bill.

Little if anything has changed, and proponents of the bill titled "Sex Trafficking" have yet to make the case that changes are needed and would, in fact, be an improvement. Such concerns need to be addressed and reconciled before the legislation advances.

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City to close last homeless Tent City on Beach

More and more tents started popping up at Keaau Beach Park, as a result of the city's effort to overhaul beaches and parks along the leeward coast. Keaau Beach Park is the city's last stop on a list of parks to clear out and cleanup. The homeless are warned it's time to go and are beginning to move out but said they are unsure where they will live.

Ty (who chose not to give her last name) lives at the park with her 4-year-old daughter and husband. She said her family will pack up their belongings before shuffling further up the coast to undeveloped state land….

The homeless tweekers said their options are limited. Shelters don't allow animals and many here own pets. Some say rent is too expensive, while others choose this (meth) lifestyle.

RELATED: Homeless tent cities: Seattle’s decade-long nightmare coming to Honolulu?

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Green energy scammers, monopolists come together as anti-Superferry Protester takes control of PUC

But now, with the state committed to the Clean Energy Initiative -- which calls for 70 percent clean energy by 2030, with 30 percent coming from efficiency measures and 40 percent from renewable local sources -- some say the PUC may be out of its element and are proposing a new regulatory agency dedicated to energy issues.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie's nomination of (anti-Superferry protester) state Rep. Hermina Morita of Kauai to fill a vacated seat of the PUC and become its chairperson upon confirmation by the Senate could be the first step. Morita has built a record as a strong backer of renewable energy and was chairwoman of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection.

"From a policy perspective she certainly understands the energy arena and has watched the PUC for a number of years as well," says state Sen. Rosalyn Baker of Maui (Young Bros), who has introduced legislation seeking to reorganize the PUC. Senate Bill 99 calls for the PUC to increase from three to five commissioners and to create a pair of two-member panels, with the chair acting as the tiebreaker for both.

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Enviro $hake down artists laugh at their ability to get away with almost anything in Hawaii courts

At the judicial level we have the spectacular success of nongovernmental organizations like the Sierra Club, EarthJustice, and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation before our state supreme court. This success has been at the expense not only of private landowners, but also government officials as well. NGOS have won nearly 90 percent of their cases before the supreme court, overturning the state’s intermediate court of appeals 70 percent of the time. (Maybe someone should do an analysis of how many of these cases involved competitors against Grove Farm and A&B.) That’s quite a record. In setting it, the court:

  • Declared an environmental impact statement necessary for an entire residential subdivision on the ground that state land was utilized – consisting of a culvert under a roadway
  • Found that a new or supplementary environmental impact statement was necessary for a mixed-use residential-resort project because the existing 600-page statement was too old and that conditions may have changed surrounding the project, without a shred of statutory language so requiring
  • Not only accepted, but increased water allocations for minimum stream flows supporting taro production and conservation purposes despite clear statutory language and mandatory plans allocating such water first for commercial farms.

(Not mentioned: Require an EIS for an inter-island ferry service because it involved tying a barge to a dock.)

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Kitchen's closing steams tiny firms (bureaucrats run wild crushing small businesses)

When the state Department of Health shut down First Commercial Kitchen last month, some small businesses were hit in the pocketbook because the Waipio plant was "the only game in town" to produce their sauces and salad dressings.

"For a lot of people, that's their sole income, and they've been hurt drastically and some of them are probably going to end up going out of business," said Pacific Poultry Vice President Brent Hancock. "It's going to hurt us horrendously. The Huli-Huli Sauce is our sole income, but we are better capital-wise than some of the others."

Pacific Poultry, one of First Commercial's biggest customers, is losing $30,000 a month and has roughly $40,000 to $50,000 in Huli-Huli Sauce sitting in First Commercial's and distributors' warehouses and back rooms of supermarkets.

Three weeks after the Health Department issued on Jan. 25 a massive recall of about 150 products listed on the website of First Commercial Kitchen, seven remain to be taken off the recall list, and the plant remains closed. Some products were no longer produced at First Commercial, and others were cleared after testing.

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HECO Palm Oil Steam Boiler is first (and prolly last) on Earth

As a fuel source, palm oil didn't receive any serious consideration until a few years ago when Malaysia began refining it into a biofuel, which the country's oil companies blend with petroleum-based diesel for use in automobiles.

But generating electricity using crude palm oil? "As far as we knew, no one had ever fired a steam turbine using 100 percent crude vegetable oil," said Ron Cox, HECO's vice president for generation and fuels.

(Besides causing massive deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia, palm oil burners can also easily be converted back to diesel once this insanity clears up.)

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Hawaii County Redistricting: 3 of Kenoi's picks gave to campaign

The nominees, one from each council district, are Valerie Poindexter, Jeff Melrose, Mike Middlesworth, Patrick Kahawaiolaa, Rene Siracusa, Linda Ugalde, Susan Maddox, Dru Kanuha and Peter Hendricks.
Hendricks, a former deputy managing director for the county, gave $200 to Kenoi's campaign in 2008. Melrose and Poindexter gave $125 each.
Ugalde said that she waved signs for Kenoi but didn't donate anything.
Maddox and Middleworth said they didn't donate to any political campaigns. The other nominees could not be reached for comment and did not appear on reports filed with the state Campaign Spending Commission.
"I volunteered because I thought it would be a good public service," said Middlesworth, a former managing editor for the Honolulu Advertiser. "I don't have any ax to grind."

HTH: Redistricting sparks rhubarb

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About Face! program works, so it is being cut

Since their inception in 2003, the About Face! Family of Programs have educated more than 11,000 learners across Hawaii. Of those, more than 94 percent have achieved at least a single-grade gain in the core tested areas of reading and math. In 2010, we placed more than 3,500 Hawaiian teens in high-interest jobs through the Summer Youth Employment Program.

But all this soon may come to an abrupt end.

After March 31, our programs and others like them could simply disappear. Proposed budget cuts by Gov. Neil Abercrombie will eliminate these critical services to students who need them the most.

(But on the bright side, there won’t be any furloughs for DoE bureaucrats.)

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DoE fails again: Only two schools comply with nutritional guidelines

Statewide, just two schools comply with rules that don't allow the sale -- or distribution -- of sugary drinks or high-fat foods on campus, according to a new report.

Meanwhile, about one-third of schools surveyed meet required minimums for the length of physical education classes.

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4000 endangered Hawaiian Petrels found on Lanai

One more reason not to build a gigantic bird-killing windfarm….

See videos: Wind Energy's Ghosts

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Al-Jazeera thrilled by last year’s idea of State-owned Bank for Hawaii

On January 11, a bill to establish a state-owned bank was introduced in the Oregon State legislature; on January 13, a similar bill was introduced in Washington State (discussed in an earlier article here); and on February 4, a bill was introduced in the Maryland legislature for a feasibility study looking into the possibilities.  They join Illinois, Virginia, Hawaii, and Massachusetts, which introduced similar bills in 2010….

The growing movement to establish local economic sovereignty through state-owned banks has been a grassroots effort that has grown spontaneously in response to unmet needs for local credit. In Oregon, the push has come from an active volunteer group called Oregonians for a State Bank working with the Working Families Party.  In Washington, a major role has been played by the Main Street Alliance, a project of the Alliance for a Just Society (formerly NWFCO).  The chief legislative champion in Washington State is Rep. Bob Hasegawa.  In Maryland, the campaign was initiated by the Wisconsin-based Center for State Innovation (CSI), working with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Progressive States Network.  Progressive Maryland is a prominent NGO supporter.

(Don’t …uh…lose your head … over this.)

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Legislators passion for politics began at young age

Republican state Rep. Aaron Johanson. At the age of 6, his father had him watching the The McNeillLehrer News Hour: “‘Age,’ my father said, ‘is no excuse.’ He wanted me to be interested in larger affairs.”

Like Tokuda and Ichiyama, Johanson excelled in high school but was interested in larger affairs. He served as the student member of the executive board of the Parent-Teachers’ Association and vice president and treasurer of the Moanalua High School student body. In the summer before college, he worked on Linda Lingle’s 1998 gubernatorial campaign.

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