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Friday, May 06, 2011
May 6, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:14 PM :: 7708 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Panos to Council: Floating Rail Bonds before federal funds are secured is dereliction of duty

Video: Kahuku Wind turbines don’t even turn on windy day

SA: Dick Rowland: The Grassroot Institute founder promotes the cause of liberty

Richard "Dick" Rowland was 71 when he set up the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii with the goal of educating isle residents about individual liberty, the free market and limited government.

That was 10 years ago. Now Rowland is back at the helm of the nonprofit -- which has three full-time employees and an annual budget of $400,000 -- filling in as acting president until a replacement can be found for Jamie Story, who was president of the group for three years before she returned last month to her native Texas….

…I went to Washington, D.C., recently and I landed at Reagan National Airport and I went outside to catch a cab and I looked up at the train -- the Metro or whatever the heck they call it -- and everything was rusting up there -- the platform and all this stuff -- and I'm thinking, "Oh my, repairing that sucker is going to cost as much as it took to install it." And, you know, that's what we have to look forward to in our future. (Sigh) Except I won't be here.

Q: You won't be here? You going somewhere?

A: (Laughs) I think by then, you know, the Lord will see my thumb sticking out and pick me up, as a hitchhiker, yes.

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High Turnout in Neighborhood Board Elections

There are 465 candidates running for 439 Neighborhood Board seats, an the Neighborhood Commission's Bryan Mick says there is a spike in voters compared to the last election in 2009.

"As far as participation rates, we have roughly twice the amount of votes then we did in the 2009 election for the same time frame," Mick wrote in an email to Civil Beat. "We do have about 35 percent more eligible voters this time around, but it’s fair to say we are seeing a higher rate so far then in 2009, and we hope that trend continues."

Mick says the election is "so far, so good," and that he's received calls from people who need help casting votes, as well as some complaints.

"We had a few calls from people who object to the digital method," he said.

Voters are able to cast ballots online or via phone using a unique code included with an elections information packets that were sent via mail.

RELATED: Hawaii Right to Life PAC endorses Neighborhood Board Candidates

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How Abercrombie suckered Senate into Creating GE Tax Bogeyman

This is how the GET was not raised and the governor and the Senate learned not to trust each other.

In early March, after a private breakfast meeting with Senate Democrats and Gov. Neil Abercrombie, senators felt they had assurances that the governor would not block an increase of the general excise tax.

While raising the GET is a red-hot controversy, senators felt they would at least not be criticized by Abercrombie and went ahead with the tax increase as part of their budget plan.

"I was at the breakfast meeting and he said he thought the GET was fine," said one veteran Democrat senator this week.

Senators felt safe because in February, Abercrombie's press secretary had said that while the governor didn't like a GET increase, if the Legislature passed it, "He will consider it the will of the people."

Later in a television interview, Abercrombie said he was "flexible" on the issue of raising the GET.

All this came after Abercrombie had promised clearly during last year's campaign that he would not raise the GET. But, senators at the breakfast meeting said, it was Abercrombie who brought up the idea of increasing the GET.

Senators are, after all, politicians, so it is understandable to them that promises made in the heat of a campaign might not be ones you really have to keep.

Then last month, Abercrombie announced that he was supporting the House plan to raise taxes by dropping the GET exemptions on various business and was really, really against raising the GET.

Senators who were willing to risk their own political capital to raise the GET to balance the budget felt they had been hung out to dry by Abercrombie, who was siding with House Speaker Calvin Say….

The distance between Abercrombie and Senate leadership is so wide now that when Abercrombie asked for extra time last Friday to pass a $2.2 million bill to pay claims against the state, the Senate said there would be no more time extensions.

(The Senate’s GE Tax bogeyman was used to make the other tax increases more palatable.  The Senators got suckered by a hippie huckster.)

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Will Force Special Session to raise taxes more: Abercrombie expected to veto Flawed Legislative Pay Cut Extension

Legislators closed their 2011 session today by passing a legally questionable bill that extends pay cuts for themselves and other state executives.

Several Representatives, including House Speaker Calvin Say, said they believe Gov. Neil Abercrombie will veto the measure, causing them to reconvene in special session before July 1, 2011, to fix the bill and address other issues, including an expected budgetary shortfall caused by declining tax revenues….

Speaker Say said flaws in the measure were inserted by senators during conference committee discussion about its language.

The House initially balked at approving the language, then reconsidered Tuesday and agreed to the changes. They finalized that vote today.

Letters pointing out legal and constitutional defects were sent to the Legislature by Rodney Maile, Administrative Director, for the state Judiciary, and Gov. Abercrombie cabinet member Sunshine Topping, who is the director of the Department of Human Resources….

Speaker Say noted that if a special session is convened, it would probably occur after the state Council on Revenues meets May 26 issue an updated projection on expected tax revenues.

Say and others expect the Council to downgrade the revenue picture, obliging state officials to once again address resulting budget deficits.

Shapiro: Legislators extend their pay cuts — for now

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CoR, Unfinished Business Could Bring legislature Back For More

Depending on what the Council on Revenues says about economic trends on May 26, as well as what lawmakers and Gov. Neil Abercrombie decide must still be addressed, a special session could come this summer.

On Thursday, following official adjournment of the 2011 session, House Speaker Calvin Say said that among the bills that could be taken up in special session are ones creating a regulatory structure for an underwater power cable, restructuring of the Public Utilities Commission, allowing use of unused public school lands, spending money for APEC security, paying out claims against the state and directing funds to the University of Hawaii and its medical school.

All failed to make it through conference committee.

Another measure that may require extra attention is the one that continues a 5-percent salary cut for top executive, legislative and judicial branch salaries. It was one of the last bills to pass the Legislature, but some lawmakers said the bill has constitutional flaws.

In a year distinguished by financial stress, it certainly would not look good for legislators to accept pay raises starting July 1.

Speaking to reporters after signing the mortgage foreclosure bill into law late Thursday, Abercrombie said he and the Legislature would have to "wait on events" like the council's next forecast and to allow time to review bills before deciding whether a special session is warranted.

But the governor did say that APEC funding, for example, was a worthwhile measure, and indicated that the 5-percent pay cut seemed reasonable, given the 5 percent pay cut taken by the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

"A lot of bills fell off the table, and we need to find ways to keep that from happening," he said.

SA: Isle economy seen riding out tsunami

SA: The upcoming revenue forecast will dictate whether a special session is necessary

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Hawaii kills undersea power cable bill (For now)

The measure would have made electricity customers pay the bill for the unknown cost of the planned cable connecting proposed wind farms on islands of Molokai and Lanai to the population center in Honolulu.

The legislation stalled in conference committee last week and died for the year when the Legislature adjourned Thursday without taking further action.

SB367: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/

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Solar power firms fight for subsidies

Hawaii's solar energy industry rallied last month to preserve renewable energy tax credits that were targeted for elimination by lawmakers looking for ways shore up the state's shaky fiscal position.

A bill (SB 756) that would have ended renewable energy tax credits by 2015 and impose a one-year delay on tax credits claimed in 2012 died when legislators failed to bring it before a conference committee in the last days of the legislative session.

Current law allows homeowners and businesses to claim state tax credits of up to 35 percent for solar and 20 percent for wind energy systems.

The Hawaii Solar Energy Association launched an unprecedented effort in late April to fight the bill, asking employees and customers of its 50 member companies to call a group of key lawmakers and register their opposition to the bill….

It's just a matter of time until the tax credits fade away, said Marco Mangelsdorf, president of ProVision Solar Inc., a Big Island company that designs and installs commercial and residential photovoltaic systems.

"Sooner or later the training wheels will have to come off, and we in the renewable energy industry will have to be able to stand on our own two feet."  (It will never do this.  When the subsidies go the ‘industry goes.’)

The federal government is already heading in that direction, having set a date of Jan. 1, 2016, for eliminating the 30 percent federal tax credit for solar and other forms of renewable energy.

The combined 65 percent state and federal tax credit has fueled an explosion in installations in Hawaii over the past five years. On Oahu alone the amount of photovoltaic (PV) generating capacity installed under Hawaiian Electric Co.'s net energy metering program grew to 4,650 kilowatts in 2010 from 74 kilowatts in 2006.

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Hawaii Lawmakers Agree to Pension Reform for New Hires

Adding a new tier of benefits for members of the Hawaii Employees Retirement System is expected to save the state $440 million over the first five years, according to Rep. Karl Rhoads.

The changes are seen as a way to help address the sorely underfunded pension fund, which faces a $9 billion unfunded liability.

House lawmakers on Thursday, the last day of the legislative session, agreed to the Senate's version of House Bill 1038, which outlined the changes. The bill had stalled in conference committee last week, but House leaders agreed to put it up for a vote.

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Freight Tax Doubled: Hawaii Consumers forced to pay for HGEA Jobs

An increase in imported freight tax is to bolster the ability to defend Hawaii against invasive species by improving inspections at airports and harbors.  West Hawaii Today reported Thursday tax on the net weight of imported freight is to increase 50 percent to fund 15 of 22 agriculture inspector positions the Legislature helped restore last year.

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Kenoi's budget cuts 2%

The $367.3 million budget, a 2.3 percent decrease from the current year, takes advantage of an additional $3.7 million left over from last year than first anticipated, bringing the carry-forward fund balance to $13.9 million.

It also contemplates labor savings of $2.8 million based on collective bargaining. That savings will be put into the budget stabilization fund, bringing that reserve balance to $4.9 million.

On the downside, the budget takes into account $1.4 million less from the transient accommodations tax, as the state keeps more of the tax collected from hotel rooms and other short-term rentals for its own coffers. And it reflects $1.4 million less for the Fire Department, as an expected state grant fell through.

Kenoi, in an hour-long sit-down with reporters, emphasized that the budget is $35.9 million, or 8.9 percent, less than when he took office in 2008. But the budget can be cut only so much, he said, because people demand services.

 

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Geniuses: Kauai Co figures out that it doesn’t make sense to sell bonds and not use the money

Why should we tie capital up allocated to a project that we know is not going to be able to expend funds in the next 12 to 18 months?” said Heu, assuring the council that the projects not listed for funding in FY12 would not go into a “black hole.”

Heu said the CIP management program is still in its infancy, and a new management position for the program was an “investment well made.” Thomas Contrades, vice-chair of the state Land Use Commission, was recently hired as the county CIP manager.

Finance Director Wally Rezentes said it’s not “healthy” to float a bond and let it sit unused for many years.

The administration could utilize bond anticipation notes in order to bridge bonds and needed projects in a timely manner, he said.

Rezentes said procurement is time consuming and labor intensive. A single project could take multiple procurements, including bids, environmental work, permits, negotiations and other processes.

“The lead time before we start actually hammering the nail can be quite extensive,” Rezentes said.

The administration has no time requirement to use a recent $60 million bond, but the intention is to use it within three years, according to Rezentes. The county is not allowed to invest the money and make a profit larger than what it is paying in interest.

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Treadmill Mystery At Hawaiian Home Lands

Somebody ordered a brand new exercise treadmill and had it delivered to the executive offices of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands last week, but it wasn’t DHHL chairman Alapaki Nahale-a, his office said today….

“After Chairman (Nahale-a) discovered that the treadmill was delivered to DHHL, he began making arrangements for the treadmill to be returned. No trust funds have been expended for the treadmill,” she said.

“We are continuing to look into the ordering of the treadmill,” Kua said.

“This action was wrong and actions like this will not be tolerated by this administration in the future,” Kua said.  (Of course she is referring to whoever leaked this story.)

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Palafox gives up UH medical school post

Dr. Neal Palafox, who was asked by the governor to give up the state health director nomination in January, has now stepped down as lead administrative director and chairman of the Medicine Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Spokeswoman Tina Shelton said Palafox made the request on April 18, and it has been approved by Dr. Jerris Hedges, medical school professor and dean.

No details were given on why Palafox stepped down.

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Police officer found not guilty in false-overtime case

A state jury determined yesterday that Honolulu police officer Leighton Kato did not knowingly put false information in a police report that made it possible for his supervisor to later claim six hours of overtime.

The jury found Kato, 37, not guilty of tampering with a government record and two counts of being an accomplice to third-degree theft.

Kato is one of seven members of the traffic enforcement unit that conducts drunken-driving roadblocks who are accused of falsifying reports.

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Law Stops Non-Judicial Foreclosures For 12 Months

Abercrombie noted the new law is 100 pages long.

"This is a comprehensive, detailed, broadly-based and extensively researched response," he said.

Maui State Rep. Angus McKelvey, D, Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua, said his 82-year-old mother was trying to modify the mortgage on her Maui home and got a letter from a mainland lender saying if she didn't provide documents within two days, she'd be dropped from a loan modification program. But they were documents she had submitted six times before, he said.

"This is the kind of thing that's going on. And this program basically sets up a system where the lenders have to come to the table with a third party to begin mediation," McKelvey said.

The mediation program is limited to people who've lived in their homes for at least 200 days.

Some lenders who opposed the bill said home buyers could face higher down payments and stricter loan requirements if lenders have to wait longer to get paid by borrowers in default.

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Sen Akaka recovering after breaking 2 ribs while preparing to denounce Special Forces

The 86-year-old senator broke two ribs on his right side but is expected back in the office next week.

He missed votes Tuesday and Wednesday because of the accident.

He was unable to chair the Indian Affairs Committee hearing Thursday and handed the gavel to Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico.

Akaka issued a statement saying he was dismayed at the use of Geronimo's name in the raid that killed bin Laden.

His statement and questions are to be part of the hearing record.

(Broke two ribs, but still has time to condemn our troops.)

AP: Akaka: Use of Geronimo code name 'unfortunate'

Muslims: Filipino Muslims also condemn bin Laden killing

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CB Poll: Only Obamabots think Obama gets credit for Killing Bin-Laden

They didn’t ask how many of the Obamabots noticed that Obama carries out Bush’s policies on the war.

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Is Councilmember a Radio-Controlled Robot?

A new city council member was elected with heavy support from the hotel industry, public employee unions, and developers.

This councilman spends a great deal of time looking down at his phone during meetings and hearings.

During council meetings and committee hearings, the councilman keeps his phone on and appears to be reading instant messages of advice coming from people in the audience or from staffers watching him on live-television.

Some council watchers say the councilman will begin to state something or appear like he is going to state something, then back off after looking down at his phone.

Prominent industry leaders have been observed in the audience texting away during committee meetings or council meetings, then looking up in approval as the councilman makes a statement.

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Homeless Tent City in Waianae: They don’t do anything, leave loads of trash behind 

"It's become a problem. I've noticed in the time that I've been out here, a lot of them. They don't do anything. They just sit there,” said Waianae resident Justin Aquino.

There are several makeshift housing structures where the landowner's relatives said about 25 homeless campers found refuge after the city kicked them off leeward beaches.

Ceno said all the homeless campers moved out last week, and Thursday, a city inspector surveyed the land. He said the inspector told the family to remove the remaining garbage or face fines -- fines the family said it cannot afford.

The family said they are taking daily loads of trash to the dump but are frustrated their generosity put their own home in jeopardy.

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Dopers: Obama Reneges On States Rights on Medical Marijuana

But, but, but…he was one of us!

SA: Dope Doctor to be sentenced

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Visitor industry gives back to Maui County troops

The Maui Hotel & Lodging Association recently launched a new program that will award Maui County soldiers returning from deployment in 2011 two complimentary nights at an accommodations property on Maui.
MHLA’s Armed Forces Deployment Benefit Program was announced to an appreciative audience during a recent “Welcome Home” event for the Army National Guard in Waikapu.

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Gambling With Hawaii: The fight over legalizing gambling

"Why not look at this? We get the hotels filled four to six weeks. We get the shots between the rounds of Hawaii's beauty. It's free advertising," said Rep. Angus McKelvey, chairman of the House Economic Revitalization and Business Committee.

McKelvey foresees the poker bill re-surfacing next session, plus a measure to legalize bingo, with a casino bill a definite possibility.

An opponent of legalized gambling in Hawaii thinks gaming supporters see a green light.  "As long as the economy remains bad we will see possibly next year even more gambling bills," said Violet Horvath of the Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling.

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Hawaii hotel occupancy slips; room rates rise

Hawaii hotels’ average occupancy rate was 60.7 percent for the week ending April 30, down 2.1 percentage points compared to the same week in 2010.

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New Deal for Hong Kong and US trade

the Pacific Bridge Initiative program aims to help US companies tap growing Asian markets and Mainland China in particular. The PBI is the first formal agreement of a trading partner to support the National Export Initiative (NEI) announced by President Barack Obama early this year which aims to double US exports in five years and create 2 million American jobs.

HKTDC: Nearly 20% of Young Hong Kong People Running, Planning Businesses

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7-Eleven plans to add 46 stores in Hawaii

The expansion means millions of dollars of investment for Seven-Eleven Hawaii Inc., which will employ twice as many people in the Islands when all 100 stores are open. Total head count would grow from 870 employees now to nearly 1,600….

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Oahu H-POWER plant expansion reaches halfway point

The city is adding a third boiler and making other improvements to its H-POWER plant at Campbell Industrial Park, which burns waste to generate electricity.

H-POWER currently generates enough electrical energy to power 50,000 homes.

By the time the expansion is completed the middle of next year, the plant will be capable of powering 75,000 homes. It will also supply eight percent of the electricity consumed on Oahu.

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