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Thursday, March 10, 2011
March 10, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:22 PM :: 10347 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, World News, Hawaii History








Marumoto: Pension Tax threshold could be dropped to $75K at end of session

$550M tax increases among 710 Crossover Bills

Recktenwald seeking comment on Judicial Nominees for First, Fifth Circuit

Hope Probation Launched in Hilo

Obamacare Subsidizes Health Benefits for State and Local Government Retirees

Anti-Superferry Protester to head PUC: Nomination approved 6-1, heads for full Senate

Sunshine Topping was confirmed 3-0 by Senate Judiciary and Labor this morning. Her nomination to lead Human Resources Development now heads to the Senate floor for a final vote.

So does the nomination of Mina Morita to run the Public Utilities Commission, which was approved 6-1 by Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection. The "no" vote was from Minority Leader Sam Slom.

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House Budget “only” boosts spending by $740M

Fiscal Year               Abercrombie Budget                                            House Finance Budget

2011                          $10.24 billion                                            $10.24 billion

2012                          $11.4 billion ($5.7 billion general funds)      $10.98 billion ($5.45 billion general funds)

2013                          $11.3 billion ($5.9 billion general funds)      $10.97 billion ($4.94 billion general funds)

CB: Hawaii's Per-Capita Spending Ranks in Top 5

SA: House's budget draft nears $22B

AP: Hawaii Gov. Abercrombie and finance chairman Oshiro plan Wahiawa community meeting

Shapiro: Will a higher threshold make the pension tax palatable?

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Oshiro Echoes Abercrombie’s attack on Council on Revenues

House Minority Leader Rep. Gene Ward wanted the committee to postpone the vote one day and in order to incorporate Thursday's update from the state's Council on Revenues into the bill.

Oshiro shot down the suggestion, saying he wanted to get the bill out of committee for a full House vote on Friday. He also expressed some skepticism about the council's past predictions, which have been known to be overly optimistic.

"It's anyone's guess right now what (the Council on Revenue's) projections will be," Oshiro said. "For the last seven months, we've seen a cumulative negative 2.3 percent in revenue growth versus the council's projected 3 percent growth. One percentage point is $45 million to $47 million. We need to collect $420 million over next several months to reach their 3 percent goal."

Feb 22: Abercrombie Budget rejects UHERO, uses $844M deficit figure, not $700M

AP: Council on Revenues prepares to release financial forecast that may widen (or close) Hawaii's budget gap

(Abercrombie and Oshiro are attacking CoR because the economic improvement documented by CoR weakens their case for tax increases.)

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Carlisle guts CIP $300M to pay debt, pension, healthcare

The biggest hikes in Carlisle's $1.9 billion operating budget are for paying down city debt and paying city workers' pensions and health benefits. Carlisle is bumping health and retirement spending 22 percent, from $207 million to $252 million. He's increasing debt service payment about 15 percent, from $335 million to $383 million.

Carlisle has emphasized these areas as the key reasons his budget is 6 percent higher than the operating budget he inherited from former Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

But an examination of his budget shows department spending is also growing, even though he advocated cuts during the mayoral campaign. Carlisle is proposing dramatically reducing capital construction spending, by almost $300 million.

Carlisle says the bulk of the departmental increases come from eliminating 24 mandatory furlough days Hannemann instituted.

PBN: Carlisle launches 'can-do' website

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Hawaii Co Council members say plan doesn't save money, just delays costs

The $366.1 million budget Kenoi submitted to the council March 1 postpones $29.1 million until the next budget year. And, it postpones at least $10 million in the year after that, said council Finance Committee Chairwoman Brenda Ford of South Kona….

"The main themes could be stated as follows: 'Let's kick the can (farther) down the road,' 'let's remember there's an election in 2012 and we shouldn't disturb any voter' and 'let's not address the real issues as far as revenues/expenses are concerned,'" Hoffmann said in the statement.

Expenditures being postponed to the next budget year include $20.1 million in prepaid health care for retirees and $3 million in principal payments on debt.

Hilo Version: Letting bills slide concerns officials

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DoE Demands $359M gift to contractors

The DOE is requesting $75 million for repairs and maintenance and $279 million for capital improvement projects.

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SB 715: Senate votes to repeal Ethanol Requirement

State lawmakers may be ready to end the state’s ethanol incentive.  (This would mean lower gasoline prices.)

The state Senate voted to approve a bill on Tuesday that would repeal a requirement that gasoline sold in Hawaii contain 10 percent ethanol.

The goal of the requirement was to encourage the local production of ethanol, which could reduce the state’s reliance on foreign oil and create new industrial plants to help with the economy. But no local producers have emerged and the state is importing ethanol to meet the mandate.


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HB546: Men can get hired if they put on dress, threaten to sue

Sen. Sam Slom: A bill ( HB 546) moving in the legislature would give transgenders here more legal rights and a new cause of action to bring against businesses who do not hire them even if the refusal has nothing to do with their sexuality. Bad bill, bad law.

VIDEO: Transvestites Duke it Out at SoCal Taco Shop

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Much of Abercrombie’s non-fiscal Legislative package still on the move

There are a total of 216 measures, which, because most have a companion bill, equates to roughly 100 bills.

With much of the media focus on the budget, many of these measures have received little attention, yet most are alive and moving through the Legislature.  Click link for a complete list…

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Witchhunt: Sen Kim calls for prosecution of Lingle Admin Officials

Tax Department Deputy Director Randy Baldamore said officials of the Linda Lingle administration let CGI "off the hook" by changing the contract terms to allow the $25 million total payment to CGI without including an incentive to finish a number of tasks, including detecting fraudulent income tax refunds and improving collections from businesses.

Sen. Donna Kim, pointed out e-mails written by former state officials which indicated they knew that CGI might not do all it promised. Kim, who has been investing the CGI contract called it "flabbergasting" and said it was obvious there was malfeasance by state officials.

"I think this is criminal," Kim said she hoped the attorney general will pursue a formal investigation.

A CGI official called to testify at the hearing, Bill Kern, said that the state's relationship with the company deteriorated dramatically after a CGI official wrote an e-mail that state officials considered insulting to (truthful about) the state employees and the department.

REALITY: Audit fuels “clinically psychotic” HGEA effort to strangle tax collection

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Substitute teachers' suit in court to determine back pay

A lawyer for the teachers has said the back pay for about 10,000 affected substitutes could top $30 million.

If the two sides cannot agree on an amount, the judge or a jury will decide it in trial.

The two sides have met twice with the court since last summer. However, the court has not scheduled a trial date.

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Hawaii Files Brief in Virginia Supporting Obamacare

Hawaii has gone to court for a second time to support the federal healthcare reform act, this time filing what’s known as an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Virginia.

Hawaii joined eight other states in submitting the brief that contends they have a “vested interest in protecting the health, safety, and welfare of citizens through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.”…

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has said court rulings against the healthcare act won’t stop the state from implementing it. He has said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will ensure Medicare coverage for preventative services such as mammograms.

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PUC refuses to stick it to the peasants: Biofuels ruling could hurt Aina Koa Pono (so sad)

The PUC recently denied Hawaiian Electric Co.’s request to assess a biofuels surcharge to customers on Oahu and Maui that would help offset the costs of a biofuel plant aimed at producing 16 million gallons of biofuel for use in the Big Island’s Keahole power plant.

The $350 million project is being developed by Honolulu-based Aina Koa Pono and is expected to account for about 16 percent of the Big Island’s energy needs by 2015.

The cost of the biofuel project was estimated to increase the average residential electric bill by $1.55 to $1.86 a month, if distributed throughout the 400,000 plus customers on Oahu, the Big Island and in Maui County. However, the PUC ruling said that the state agency did not have the legal authority to authorize such cost sharing — meaning that Big Island residents would have to absorb all the costs. Based on the Big Island’s relatively limited customer base, this could increase the biofuels surcharge for Big Island residents 10-fold.

(Here’s an idea, lets place a special tax on green energy scammers companies and make them pay for their own scam.)

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Secret Nominees? Recktenwald shows Abercrombie the sunshine

For her efforts, OIP's acting director found herself fired. Abercrombie's office says her termination and OIP's assessment of his actions aren't related.

Abercrombie's office has said releasing the names would be "detrimental to attracting prospective judicial applications."

If the governor's confused about the law, maybe he should ask the Chief Justice.

SA: Hawaii chief justice discloses nominees for district court seats

Shapiro: CJ won’t follow governor’s lead on judicial secrecy

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Rep. Colleen Hanabusa tours Guantanamo Bay, seeks “balanced process”

“I’m grateful I had the opportunity to see firsthand the structure of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and how it operates. The challenge we currently face is defining a balanced process in detaining, trying, convicting and incarcerating enemy combatants and terrorists who threaten or harm the United States and our citizens. I am hopeful that we can work with the President to create a solution that strengthens our safety and reflects America’s values.”

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Workers not electrified by tentative deal

Chassidy Morton, a plant aide who works at the Maalaea Power Plant, said she voted "no" on the contract.

"It doesn't look fair," she said.

Morton disliked that the company would no longer give employees a 33 percent discount off of their electric bills and said that the raise the company is proposing will only be absorbed by the increase in employee contributions for medical insurance.

She said she judged that Maui Electric should provide fringe benefits to employees, just like other companies that do so.

"The company will be getting more (money)," she said, with the company taking back the discounts.

Morton, who has been with the electric company for three years, added that those who join the company later this spring will not receive the same benefits that current employees receive.

But, overall, Morton said she is still happy to work for Maui Electric and likes the company.

Another Maalaea Power Plant worker, Joshua Ornong, said he didn't really like what he saw in the proposed contract, but he declined to say how he voted.

He said he had concerns about the retirement and medical benefits but didn't go into details.

SA: Oi claims Rep Pine is not civil

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Chemophobia Alert: Arsenic found in Kilauea

“The affected homes are built over an old plantation site where chemicals were mixed and used for agricultural purposes,” said Janice Okubo, DOH spokesperson.

The department will hold a media conference today in Lihu‘e to answer questions about the state’s findings, health risks and the next steps in the investigation process.

(Prepare for 12-24 months gnashing of teeth and flailing of invective.)

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HOPE probation provides freedom on a short leash

On Wednesday, Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura administered a "warning hearing" for the first five offenders in the program, called Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement, or HOPE probation.
About 25 felony offenders considered to be at high risk of violating terms of their probation will be placed in the program during the start-up period.

The program promises swift and certain jail time for probation violators. According to the Judiciary, positive drug tests declined by 83 percent on Oahu, where the program was first tried. Participants were 55 percent less likely to be arrested for a new crime.

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Sovereignty scammers target Grand Wailea, Bloomberg News falls for it

(Scammers pretending to represent) The estate of King Kamehameha III, king of Hawaii from 1825 to 1854, said the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa in Maui shouldn’t be part of the U.S. bankruptcy of MSR Resorts, according to a letter filed in Manhattan court.

A portion of the land on which the resort is located is part of the king’s estate and was inherited by his children, according to a letter from the estate dated Feb. 28. The letter was addressed to Judge Sean Lane, who is overseeing MSR Resorts’ bankruptcy, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the government of Singapore’s investment corporation, which has expressed interest in buying some of MSR’s properties.

Claims on royal properties are “misinformed,” the estate said in the letter, which demands that legal claims for the Wailea hotel be withdrawn. The U.S. “is obligated by law to refrain from intermeddling in foreign royal patented probate estates affairs,” the letter stated.   (And Bloomberg News fell for this.)

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Kamehameha III ordered Iwi be moved to build Church

At that time, our membership was growing, our Sunday school was prospering, and our programs needed room to expand. Our kūpuna realized that a building was needed so the church could provide the services, activities, and programs necessary for its survival and to accommodate the interest and growth of its membership. They prayed and felt assured that the kūpuna would understand their dilemma and consent to be moved to make room for a needed structure. Reluctantly, our kūpuna agreed on that site for Likeke Hall.

Such was the call of Kamehameha III when in 1837, when the sanctuary basement was being excavated and iwi were discovered, he ordered that the iwi be removed to make room for the Church.  (You mean all this stuff about not moving the iwi is just another exercise in historical revisionism designed to shake down resort developers, railroad builders and single family homeowners?  Say it isn’t so!)

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After groveling before Hu, Honolulu Council insults Sun Yat-sen by “honoring” him

Following the 8-1 vote on the Limbaugh resolution, all council members agreed to support a resolution that deemed 2011 “The year of Dr. Sun Yat-sen in Honolulu.”

Sun Yat-sen, born in 1866, was raised in Hawaii by his older brother attending Iolani and Punahou Schools, two of Hawaii’s most private prestigious schools. He became a doctor and worked in Macao, Guangzhou and Honolulu. After becoming interested in politics, he established the Revive China Society.

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Crews Clean Up Keaau Beach Park: Homeless Forced To Leave During Project

About 35 workers from multiple districts of the Department of Parks and Recreation started taking down leftover structures and tossing bulky items. Tufono said getting rid of the trash was the easy part. It is the next steps that will take some time, he said.

"Now we're going to be coming in, our department of forestry will be coming in, trimming some of our trees," Tufono said. "Our maintenance crew will come in and cut the grass."

Tufono said the grass has not been cut since the homeless took over the park. Crews will also work on getting roads repaired.

"If you drive on the roads, they're bumpy uneven and it's just not safe," Tufono said.

Crews will also renovate the bathrooms.

While residents in the community are eager to see the end result, one question remains: What will stop campers from coming back once the park is reopened?

"What's been really helping our effort is the police department coming in and enforcing our curfews and that's all we can ask. We can ask that that hopefully will abide by the curfew and leave the park when they're supposed to," Tufono said.

Dozens of the homeless took advantage of shelters while many moved near the bushes just past the park, joining the hundreds of other homeless campers already there.

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Democrats need their dope: Pass 5 Marijuana Bills

  • SB 1460 – decriminalization of one ounce of marijuana: 24-0-1 (Shimabukuro was excused). It now moves over to the house.
  • SB 58 – increases plants, dried ounces, patient-caregiver ratio, clarifies transportation language. The bill was waived by the Senate Judiciary Chair, Clayton Hee, which allowed it to move on for a floor vote, and it passed third reading 24-0-1 (Shimabukuro was excused). It now moves to the house.
  • SB 175 – moves medical marijuana program from Public Safety to Health: 24-1 (Kouchi voted “no”)
  • SB 1458 – licenses medical marijuana compassion centers, producers and infused products makers. Passed third reading, 24-1 (Slom voted “no”). Moves to house.
  • SB 113 – creates a 3-year Cannabis research program. Passed third reading with 23 ayes, 23-2 (Slom and Kouchi voted “no”). Moves to house.

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Hawaii to spend $2M upgrading international arrival area at Honolulu's airport

Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz's office said in a statement Wednesday the money includes $950,000 to replace flooring on the baggage level of the building and $650,000 to install new lighting, a new ceiling, and a new rock garden area.

Finally, the state plans to spend $400,000 to replace a canopy in an area used by group tours.

The work is expected to be completed in time for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings that Honolulu is scheduled to host in November.

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Flush: Hawaii County to fully fund 2% “Open Spaces Fund”

Two Percent for Public Land is back. Mayor Billy Kenoi's new budget, he announced, would mark "the resumption of transfers" to the Open Spaces Fund at the rate of two percent of property tax receipts after the County Council, at Kenoi's request, temporarily cut payments to the fund in 2009. At least five councilmembers have pledged to maintain the funding at the two percent level this year.

The news about land conservation funding at the state level is grimmer. After raiding several other funds to balance the budget last year, Hawaii House Speaker Calvin Say has introduced a bill this year to do the same to the Land Conservation Fund and the Natural Area Reserve Fund.

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Memminger: States should lure others’ welfare tourists to revive economies

News that Hawaii is enjoying an influx of money from an unusual source – welfare and food stamp payments from other states – may point the way to a vast new income stream that could help save our economy.

Apparently some Mainland welfare recipients are sneaking off to the Islands to spend their own state’s money here, God bless ‘em….This is the perfect answer for Hawaii’s economic problems: possibly millions of OSM (Other States’ Money) flying to Hawaii.

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North Korea Nears Completion of Electromagnetic Pulse Bomb

Since March 4, Pyongyang has been trying to disrupt GPS receivers critical to South Korean military communications apparently in protest of the ongoing joint military training exercises between South Korean and U.S. forces. Strong jamming signals were sent intermittently every five to 10 minutes.

The scope of the damage has been minimal, putting some mobile phones and certain military equipment that use GPS signals on the fritz.

Large metropolitan areas including parts of Seoul, Incheon and Paju have been affected by the jamming, but "the situation is getting wrapped up, no severe damage has been reported for the last two days," Kyoungwoo Lee, deputy director of Korea Communications Commission, said.

The jamming, however, has raised questions about whether the Korean peninsula is bracing for new electronic warfare.

The North is believed to be nearing completion of an electromagnetic pulse bomb that, if exploded 25 miles above ground would cause irreversible damage to electrical and electronic devices such as mobile phones, computers, radio and radar, experts say.

"We assume they are at a considerably substantial level of development," Park Chang-kyu of the Agency for Defense Development said at a briefing to the parliament Monday.

Park confirmed that South Korea has also developed an advanced electronic device that can be deployed in times of war.

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Turkey and the Restoration of the Caliphate

A significant component and AKP ally in the changing face of Turkey has been the influential Gulenist Movement led by Fetullah Gulen, a powerful force in Turkey for over four decades. Gulen began a grassroots movement in the 1970's with the Islamist political party, Milli Gorus, a worldwide Islamist movement with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. AKP emerged from Milli Gorus to restore Islamic religion and culture. 

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