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Tuesday, March 15, 2011
March 15, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:42 PM :: 6214 Views :: Kauai County News, DHHL, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Did Sen Mike Gabbard get hoaxed by fake Turkic President?

Supreme Court extends Big Isle Foreclosure Mediation Project

PANIC organized by media: U.S. Drug Stores Report Sudden Increase in Potassium Iodide Sales

MORE PANIC: America on radiation alert: Japan faces world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl as experts warn fallout may reach U.S. 

CFP: Orgy of paranoia and self righteous environmentalism: ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’

Hawaii Gov. Abercrombie marks 100 days in office Tuesday as state recovers

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie marks his 100th day in office Tuesday by assessing damages across the state from last week's tsunami.

The Democratic former congressman's first 100 days have been busy and sometimes rocky, with the new governor dealing with a $1 billion projected budget deficit, angering seniors with plans to tax pensions and signing civil unions legislation into law….

He caused a stir when he didn't give a reason for seeking Health Director Neal Palafox's resignation, and when he replaced Office of Information Practices Director Cathy Takase after she said he should release names of Supreme Court candidates.

MORE: Abercrombie: 100 Days, 10 Broken Promises

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Hawaii Lawmakers Expected to Raid Special Funds to Close Gap

House lawmakers have already approved a measure — House Bill 1043 — which would transfer $42 million ("or so much thereof as may be necessary") from the hurricane fund into the state's general fund for "fiscal 2011-2012."

In the Senate, lawmakers recently approved a bill — Senate Bill 120 — that would repeal 16 special funds (including the community college and UH-Hilo bookstore revolving fund and the Sen. Hiram L. Fong scholarship endowment trust) and take some money from another 23 special funds (including the energy security special fund and the geospatial information and data integration special fund). The bill initially would have raided 138 of the state's special funds to help address the shortfall. The latest version does not specify how much money would be diverted.

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Seven Tax Hike Bills in Legislature

  • House Bill 840: Increases each of the six alcohol taxes by 20 percent
  • Senate Bill 233: Expands the cigarette tax to include more tobacco products, including large cigars and smokeless tobacco products
  • House Bill 1101 and 1102: HB 1101 would hike the state’s flat-rate vehicle registration fee from $25 to $45. HB 1102 would increase the vehicle weight tax
  • House Bill 1092: Taxes pensions
  • House Bill 809: Temporarily increases the transient accommodations tax rate on time share units by 2 percentage points to 9.25 percent though June 30, 2015
  • House Bill 799: Temporarily suspends GET exemptions for certain activities through June 30, 2015, and requires the payment of the tax at a graduated rate

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Stakes going up in legal fight over O’ahu rail

The continuing fight over the $5.5 billion O’ahu rail project may soon be headed to federal court.

A group that includes former Gov. Ben Cayetano has retained nationally prominent environmental attorney Nicholas Yost for a possible lawsuit to halt the proposed 20-mile commuter line between Kapolei and Ala Moana.

Cayetano didn’t disclose the others in the coalition, but said they include “liberals, conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, environmentalists, businessmen and libertarians.”

The lawsuit is expected to challenge the findings of the rail environmental impact statement, its methodology, the project’s finances and the city’s projections on population and ridership, among other issues.

REALITY:   Will Abercrombie kill Rail to establish Pay-to-Play monopoly?

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ILind: Abercrombie’s Pay-to-Play Contract Coordinator?  So What?

The story reads like an exposé, leading some commenters to throw around terms like “corruption,” and to express anti-Abercrombie views.  (And we can’t have that, can we?)

REALITY:   Will Abercrombie kill Rail to establish Pay-to-Play monopoly?

FLASHBACK: http://www.pritchettcartoons.com/whiff.htm

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Daniel Akaka Explains Why He Won't Step Down Early--Retiring Mid-Term Would Allow Governor To Appoint Democrat

He already knows the best memory of his career was seeing Barack Obama elected to the nation's highest office.

“(He) was elected president of the United States of America. And for me, that's a huge deal. And for Hawaii as well,” Akaka said.

Akaka said his biggest accomplishment is his work in veteran's affairs.

As for the Akaka bill, "It's not over for me as far as Hawaiian parity. I'm trying my best to bring parity to native Hawaiians as indigenous people,” Akaka said.

His biggest disappointment was the U.S invasion of Iraq. (Not the failure of the Akaka Bill)

"I was one of the few that voted against it,” Akaka said.

In addition to the countless lives lost and troops injured, Akaka said he believes the Iraq War is the reason for the country’s huge deficit. (bull)

"Had we not had that, we wouldn't be, I feel, in the dire situation that we're in now,” Akaka said.

Akaka plans to spend his remaining time in office working with the arms services committee, ensuring troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan. (No mention of Akaka Bill)

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Hawaii Public Compensation: $40,000 = $64,000

Hawaii public employees on average get fringe benefits that amount to an additional 60 percent of an employee's salary, according to the state Department of Human Resources Development. That means an employee who earns $40,000 in base pay actually gets $64,000 in total compensation if you add in their benefits from the state.

That ratio is higher than the national average. On average, benefits cost state and local governments an additional 34.5 percent of an employee's base pay. By comparison, the average private-sector employer pays out an additional 29 percent of an employee's base pay in benefits, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In Hawaii, benefit costs for public workers are expected to increase significantly this year. Lawmakers are expected to pass a bill authorizing the $18 million needed to increase the state's share of employees' health premiums from a 50-50 split to 60-40 from March 1 to June 30 — an agreement Abercrombie signed off on with labor unions shortly after taking office. The governor has said he intends to maintain the split, which would cost the state $108 million over the next two budget years….

Employee salaries make up 60 percent of Hawaii's general fund — or about $3 billion — with the average state employee earning between $44,375 and $65,0921. (By comparison, the average private-sector worker in Hawaii earns $42,760 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

The state spends another $1.1 billion on employee "fringe benefits" — extra benefits supplementing an employee's salary, including health insurance, retirement benefits, vacation and sick leave, and workers' compensation and unemployment benefits. (The 60 percent cost does not cover the unfunded retirement and health-care liabilities.)…

That seems consistent with an analysis by The New York Times, which found public sector employees work fewer hours than their private sector counterparts and earn higher pay per hour, as well as better benefits.

However the paper found a variation from occupation to occupation, with workers without a college degree benefiting more from public employment than workers with a college degree.

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The Paychecks of Hawaii Public Union Leaders

Union and executive Membership 2009 base salary Other compensation Total pay
Hawaii Government Employees Association
Randy Perreira, executive director
43,000 $163,149 $32,791 $195,940
United Public Workers
Dayton Nakanelua, state director
14,065 $147,084 $33,160 $180,244
Hawaii State Teachers Association
Roger Takabayashi, president
12,656 $134,275 $23,193 $157,468
Hawaii State Teachers Association
Dwight Takeno, interim executive director
12,656 $109,017 $70,712 $179,7281
University of Hawaii Professional Assembly
J.N. Musto, executive director
3,850 $174,748 $10,002 $184,750

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Abercrombie seeks eight more BoE appointees who will not Audit The DoE

The governor has already announced one of his appointees: Don Horner, First Hawaiian Bank chairman and chief executive officer.

Horner, who was appointed to the elected board Feb. 8 to fill a vacancy, also will be nominated to the new appointed board.  (Horner’s key qualification is his refusal to audit the DoE.)

KITV: Governor Approves School Board Changes

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NYT: For Honolulu’s Homeless, an Eviction Notice

From his home on Ilalo Street, Banery Afituk can feel the breeze off Mamala Bay, two blocks away. Walking out his front door, to his right, he can make out the tops of the luxury ocean liners, and to his left, some of this city’s finer high rises. “I like it here,” he said, as his three children played around him.

The 100 people who have been living in a tent colony in Honolulu must find somewhere to go by Tuesday. Officials hope to encourage development in the area.

Home for Mr. Afituk, his pregnant wife and their children is, in fact, a tattered tent rising low off the sidewalk, one of dozens that have sprung up in a colony of homelessness near the downtown of this tropical tourist getaway.

“It’s comfortable. We try to make it comfortable.”

And as in other temperate places — like Santa Monica, Calif. — Hawaii’s climate is a draw to people looking to live outside. “I love it: free rent, free electricity,” said Sherri Watson, 43. “Who wants to stay in a bed-bugged shelter?”

(See what happens when we allow people to become “comfortable” living on the streets.)

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REALITY: No Elevated Radiation Detected in Islands

The department said Monday air samples taken in the islands show radiation at ambient or normal background levels.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington on Sunday said harmful levels of radiation aren't expected anywhere in the U.S. as a result of damage to Japan's nuclear reactors.

Hawaii, in a partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has a system to monitor for radioactive dust.

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Japanese groups cancelling travel plans to Hawaii

Gov. Neil Abercrombie says tourism in Hawaii is likely take a big hit in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunamis that have devastated Japan, as Japanese visitors cancel trips or hold off on future vacation plans.

Keith Viera, Starwood Hotels & Resorts' senior vice president and director of operations in Hawaii and French Polynesia, says a group of 2,000 Japanese visitors that was supposed to arrive in Hawaii in the next couple of weeks has canceled….

Hundreds from Japan have also told Outrigger Enterprises they are not coming to Hawaii….

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Economic damage from isle tsunami spreads, becomes Abercrombie’s latest argument for Tax Hikes

As Japanese visitors cancel trips to Hawaii, Abercrombie said, he plans to ask the state Council on Revenues to reconvene to adjust economic projections to give the Legislature and state officials a better idea of what to expect from the drop in needed tourism dollars.

"It's almost a certainty the numbers will change," Abercrombie said.

Abercrombie also plans to meet with the heads of state departments to have frank discussions about where more money can be saved to help close Hawaii's budget deficit — projected at $964 million before the tsunami hit.

On Sunday, Abercrombie signed a supplementary proclamation to expand the State of Disaster Proclamation he signed on Friday. The proclamation is the first step toward seeking federal recovery funds, spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said.

But the Federal Emergency Management Agency will not immediately get involved in relief, she said.

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Djou Staying in the Game

Former U.S. Rep. Charles Djou has taken on a role that will keep him plugged into happenings within the Beltway.

Djou, the former Republican Congressman from Hawaii’s 1st District, has teamed up with former Idaho Democratic U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick to form a lobbying enterprise, according to a Bloomberg News article….

Reached by e-mail, Djou says the report is “sort of” true, but he has no plans to move back to Washington.

“I am only serving as an advisor with Congressman Minnick and really haven’t done much of anything other than give him occasional advice,” Djou said.

HR: Djou Helps Form Washington Consulting Firm

Bloomberg: Two freshmen House members defeated last November for re-election, Democrat Walt Minnick of Idaho and Republican Charles Djou of Hawaii, formed their own firm.

LINK: http://majoritygroupdc.com/

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Donna Mercado-Kim considers Senate Run

State Senate Vice President Donna Mercado Kim is thinking about a U.S. Senate campaign.

Kim, (D, Kalihi Valley-Halawa), said she plans to form an exploratory committee to raise money to finance a poll.

“I’ll see what my options are at that point,” she said….

Under federal election law, potential candidates are allowed to “test the waters” without registering as a candidate. The potential candidates can raise money for polling or travel around the state to see if there is sufficient support for a campaign.

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Hawaii becomes first state with $4 gas average

Hawaii on Monday reached the dubious milestone of being the first state in recent years to reach the $4 average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline.

According to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the Aloha State's $4 a gallon is the highest in the nation and a few cents higher than California's average of $3.959. Alaska was third at $3.902.

Some cities have already hit the $4 mark, including San Francisco, but Hawaii is the first state to reach the mark since 2008.

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Star-Advertiser: General Public is just as dangerous as Criminal Lunatics

This concern belies the fact that statistically, mentally ill people are no more dangerous, nor are they more violent, than the general population.

(Oh?  And their next example? A lunatic double murderer.)

If anything, the change could make the state safer by giving probation officers, case managers, psychiatrists and psychologists time to focus on more troublesome cases, such as that of Clayborne Conley, who fatally shot his ex-girlfriend and her 13-year-old daughter and then himself last year. He was on conditional release from Hawaii State Hospital after being acquitted because of mental defect on charges stemming from burglary, a felony.

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Anti-Superferry Protester Morita confirmed as PUC chief

McManaman and Hooser were confirmed 25-0, while Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai) cast the sole vote against Morita. Slom also voted against Morita in her committee hearing.

Slom objected to many of her policy stances related to the management of the agency that sets utility, shipping and a host of other rates for the state.

Morita has served as chairwoman of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection and was known as a staunch advocate for sustainable energy projects. She shepherded the state's "bottle bill" recycling law and also was among the key lawmakers in the establishment and suspension of the state's failed attempt to regulate consumer gasoline prices.

KGI: Senate confirms Morita, Hooser in new posts

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Hawaii Human Trafficking Bill Revived

Rep. John Mizuno resurrected an anti-labor trafficking bill Monday at a House Human Services Committee meeting. He amended Senate Bill 77 to include most of House Bill 577, which criminalizes labor trafficking. Mizuno has indicated he also plans to incorporate language in the amended SB 77 to criminalize sex trafficking.

The amended bill won't be available until after the Legislature's drafting agency is finished with it — Thursday at the latest, according to Mizuno's office.

Before Monday, Hawaii lawmakers appeared to have killed all six bills that would have established laws criminalizing human trafficking.

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Omidyar gives more Megabucks to Kanu, Nature conservancy

The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, which is receiving $78,784 to create a centralized database of information about conservation efforts and tools for protecting Hawaii's endangered native forests.  (Headed by Suzanne Case—think “Grove Farm”)

Kanu Hawaii, which is receiving $100,000 to develop a program for consumers to engage in group-buying from socially responsible businesses.

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Starwood and union agree on new contract

The new contract, which affects some 2,800 union workers at six Starwood managed hotels on Oahu, Maui and Kauai, comes just one week after the union settled with Hilton Hawaii. Union workers at the Sheraton Waikiki, Sheraton Kauai, Sheraton Maui, Moana Surfrider, Royal Hawaiian and Princess Kaiulani have been working without a new contract since June 30.

The contract preserves comprehensive family and retiree health and welfare coverage and offers workers a wage increase retroactive to July 1. The package also includes employer contribution increases that protect pension benefits for future and current retirees.  Workers will vote on the contract through March 18

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