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Sunday, January 22, 2012
January 22, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:11 PM :: 7744 Views :: Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Hawaii March for Life TODAY -- Jan 22

Molokai Video: 160 Officers Outnumber 80 Protesters, Cruise Ship Enters Harbor

Using the Tax System to Hide Spending and Shift Burden

Gingrich Sweeps South Carolina

21 Gambling Bills Before Legislature

NRA Targets Pro and Anti Gun Bills before Hawaii Legislature

Video: Sen Sam Slom First News Conference of Session

IAM Video: Molokai Proposes Alternatives to Big Wind

Star-Adv: It is all but impossible to Unify Behind Educational Reform

SA: It will be all but impossible to unify behind an agenda of educational reform until the players in the public schools system -- the state Department of Education administration, the HSTA leadership and the teachers themselves -- stop operating in silos, separated by self-interest and lacking much of a collaborative process. (ie: when pigs fly and hell freezes over.)

The sinking of the proposed six-year contract by 67 percent of the teachers voting on Thursday almost certainly sinks hopes of safeguarding the entire $75 million Race to the Top grant for educational reform….

the message from the teachers is: We're not on board with this, particularly not with a teacher-evaluation process that's not yet clearly spelled out, seemingly driven by the outlines provided in the Race to the Top guidelines….

read … Post Mortem Posing as a Call to Action

Abercrombie Budget: Fake it to Look Good This Year, Then Deficits Loom

SA: Rep. George Fontaine (R, Makena-Kihei) said he is concerned about the potential for tax increases because of the projected budget deficits in future years and the unfunded liabilities in the public employee health care and retirement systems. He said Abercrombie needs to keep his word on taxes.

"That's the big one for me. I want to make sure that we're not going to raise taxes this year," he said. "And I would really like to hear some -- not promises -- but actually hear some action steps of what he has in mind in terms of turning this around with the budget and making sure that we're not severely in the hole in another two or three years.

"We're being told that everything is OK this year. But then it seems it gets exponentially worse as we get further out, and I just would love to hear him come up with some clear, concrete plans, not political rhetoric, but real actual concrete plans."

Related: Abercrombie's Budget Runs $927M Deficit over 6 years

read … Setting the Stage for Future Tax Increases

Pro-Gay Unions Divorce Lawyer: Institution of Marriage is Coming to Abrupt End

SA: The outlook for modern marriage seems to have gotten dramatically worse just during this first decade of the new millennium.

In fact, it now appears that the "institution" of marriage as we know it may be in danger of coming to a fairly abrupt end in modern day America.

I surprised myself by arriving at this rather startling conclusion while researching the most recent social and demographic material for the fourth edition of my book, "Divorce with Decency." The marriage rate in America has been in severe decline since at least 2004, with the steepest drop-off having begun in the 2004-2006 time frame -- and plummeting sharply ever since.

America's views on marriage now seem to be changing incredibly rapidly, and the rise of civil unions could be yet another straw that helps "break the back" of conventional marriage….

In Europe, where civil unions have been available longer, they are now becoming more popular than traditional marriage.

Personally, I am a big fan of the new civil unions law and it is by no means my intent to criticize the liberating effect of the legislation itself.

Rather, my focus as an author and observer of social trends is on its possible unintended consequences.

Simply put, the rise of the civil union option could ultimately -- and inadvertently -- help accelerate the decline and fall of marriage.

This could be a biggie. Stay tuned….

read … Civil Unions Undermines Traditional Marriage

EUTF Forks out $10M to Keep State Retirees on More Expensive Pharmacy System, Legislators Consider Raiding EUTF Fund

SA: When the new (CVS/Longs Pharmacy) plan kicks in on May 1, the 17,713 state retirees enrolled in Medicare benefits will remain covered by (more expensive, less efficient) InformedRx.

Coriell said the EUTF has elected to cover the added cost of keeping InformedRx for those subscribers because CVS prices were publicized to them before it was known they would have to remain on the more costly plan.

The added cost per month is $2.5 million and will last for an estimated four months for a total of $10 million, Coriell said.

The cost will be covered by unrestricted reserve funds in EUTF's account -- as approved by the board -- which currently total more than $80 million.

The new contract with CVS was approved in mid-December after InformedRx initiated a lengthy protest process in August. But a hearing officer approved the award for 19,409 active and 5,153 retired employees not receiving Medicare and dismissed the award for the 17,713 beneficiaries also on the Medicare drug plan, Coriell said.

An evaluation committee reviewed the issues highlighted by the hearing officer, and re-scored the proposal, and the contract for retirees on Medicare was recently re-awarded to CVS. Since it is a new award, however, there is the potential for InformedRx to file another protest, which would further prolong the start date, Coriell said.

The size of the EUTF's reserve fund also piqued the interest of lawmakers during the hearing as being a possible source to tap into to cover currently unfunded future retiree health benefits that will total at least $9.8 billion over the next 30 years, according to a July 2009 evaluation.

"Now that we're totally insured by a provider -- in this case, HMSA (Hawaii Medical Service Association) -- they get all the liability, so you don't need to have that kind of huge reserve as a contingency," Oshiro said.

The EUTF will propose two bills during this legislative session: one that would create a separate irrevocable fund for money contributed toward covering future retiree benefits because active and retired employee money is currently commingled in one account; and another that would move rate changes back to a July 1 plan year to coincide with Medicare B plan changes so people experience only one increase per year.

read … CVS

Namuo Again Moots Proposal to Have Obama Recognize Akaka Tribe Without Congressional Approval

"I hope we can complete the job in two to four years -- the shorter the better," said former Gov. (grave robber) John Waihee, chairman of the five-member commission, with funding that Namuo estimated will range from $3 million to $5 million.

Last year's legislation is limited to creating the roll, but envisions that it will be followed by delegates being elected for a constitutional convention, the creation of "organic documents" and election of the entity's initial officers, Namuo said.

"Once you have the officers in place," he said, "then you are ready to seek recognition of the state of Hawaii for the Native Hawaiian government entity. That may take several years to do that," joining "various tribes" that have received state recognition.

At that point, all the assets of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs could be transferred to the new entity, including 25 acres of state land at Kakaako that is proposed to be given to OHA. (That $200 million proposal to settle ceded-lands back claims is expected to be debated during this legislative session.) Even then, that would be the subject of negotiations between the state and the new entity, since OHA is a state agency.

If the Kakaako deal is sealed, it could be turned into a "land base," as critics have pointed out that the Native Hawaiian people are without a reservation; for most Native American tribes, reservations are where they reside.

"It could be," Namuo said about the land base concept. "Probably not, though. When people talk about land base, they're more interested in where people live. Kakaako would probably become much more a basis of wealth for the nation."

Some of the native tribes on the continent have gone on to negotiate recognition through a "federal acknowledgement process," not by Congress but by the U.S. interior secretary. However, that rule is restricted to the lower 48 states and Alaska. Congressional action would be needed to include Hawaii, but Republican opposition could surface for the same reason that the Akaka Bill was controversial. Also, that process has taken 10 to 20 years for other entities, Namuo said, because every member would be subject to a genealogical survey, tracing ancestry back to the original roll.

Outside that process, the interior secretary has recognized indigenous groups in "a few instances," he said, but that has been rare.

Background: State Sues to Get Back $39M Looted from Graves by John Waihee, Reservation for a Broken Trust?

read … Rolling the Hawaiians

Painters Union Pushing to Legalize Gambling

SA: In a new radio commercial, Lynn Kinney, business manager and secretary-treasurer of Local 50, the painters union, says a union poll shows his members want a casino in Waikiki.

"A casino means more hotels, more construction, more jobs and more local people getting back to work," Kinney says.

More jobs is a good reason, more economic diversity is a good reason, more money to pay teachers or lower university tuition are other good reasons.

read … Whitewash

WaPo: Hawaii teachers reject contract in ‘blow’ to Race to the Top

WaPo: Public school teachers in Hawaii have rejected a contract that called for a move to a performance-based evaluation and compensation system, as required by the Race to the Top grant that the state won from the Obama administration.

The rejection comes shortly after Hawaii was warned by the U.S. Education Department that its $75 million Race to the Top grant had been put on “high-risk status” — the first state to be so sanctioned — because it had not moved quickly enough to implement specific reforms….

But the contract proposal, according to several Hawaii newspapers, did not actually spell out the details of how the new evaluation system would work. It would, however, have reversed a 5 percent pay reduction that went into effect last year.

Hawaii may be having the biggest trouble among Race to the Top recipients satisfying the Education Department

read … Hawaii teachers reject contract in ‘blow’ to Race to the Top

Film, TV Production Spending Drops 54% After Election of Abercrombie

SA: Film and television production spending in Hawaii last year declined more than 54 percent from 2010, but local officials say the industry is doing well. In fact, if everything goes as they hope, the industry might expand the Hawaii-based work force this year and add two, maybe even three new TV series.

Productions spent about $184 million here last year, significantly lower than the record $407 million spent in 2010, according to state figures. But the lower number is more typical of the volume of work in the islands, said Georja Skinner, administrator of the state's Creative Services Division, which oversees the Hawaii Film Office.

Skinner called the 2010 production figure an anomaly.

"This is a cyclical business," she said. "I think 2011 was a very strong and healthy production year."

One could argue that it was unrealistic to expect another year like 2010, when Hawaii hosted "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," "Battleship" and "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," "The Descendants" and "Soul Surfer."

read … Really, it has nothing to do with Neil. Really

President of Aloha Life Advocates adopted baby to stop an abortion

SA: Another change Aloha Life is undergoing is appealing to young people to pick up the cause's banner, he said. Last year's rally, which drew about 1,000 people, reflected its change of focus, as will tomorrow's event. A keiki poster contest involving students at all schools, games and activities, hula, live music and educational displays will culminate in a peaceful walk around the Capitol.

The organization is trying to get more young people involved because "my generation of aging baby boomers is dying off, and there's no one to replace them," he said. With social mores changing, and especially with traditional marriage, "we're re-emphasizing what marriage and family are all about," Borja added.

The rally will be peaceful, and people of all faiths are welcome, said Borja.

Colette Machado, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, will deliver a welcoming message of aloha, he said.

Related: Colette Machado: I look at Kalaupapa--Native Hawaiians will fight against Assisted Suicide

read … March for Life

How Medicare/Medicaid Reimbursement System Retards Improvements in Medical Technology

SA: Obviously, the 3.0T machines cost more to acquire, install and maintain. Whereas a 1.5T machine runs approximately $1.5 million, a 3.0T is closer to $2.5 million. The better machines also weigh more, which requires more construction, better shielding, insulation and more.

The problem is that reimbursement for MRI studies is the same regardless of the age of the machine or its power.

At the same time, physicians, particularly surgeons who depend on MRI studies for important medical decisions, demand top-quality images. This puts a tremendous squeeze on hospitals and free-standing radiology companies to make ends meet while they provide cutting-edge images. The best way to cover the huge capital investment and fixed costs is to perform more studies. (Here’s a better idea—just charge more for the better system. Only problem, the government won’t pay you extra.)

AP: Hawaii one of only 14 states which have adopted an Obamacare ‘Healthcare Exchange’ Plan

read … Socialized Medicine

Retirees Moving to Hawaii are a Leading Source of Patents

SA: The yearly number of patents issued to Hawaii inventors fell slightly in 2011 but remained at a historically high level thanks to a wave of filings in the information technology and biotech fields.

There were 183 patents awarded to inventors with Hawaii addresses last year, second only to the record 210 patents issued in 2010, according to data from the U.S. Patent Office. Hawaii patent awards have averaged 133 per year over the past decade.

Hawaii inventors produced 45 patents for information technology companies last year, including Apple, Microsoft, International Business Machines and Sony. Some of those patents appear as Hawaii patents only because the inventor moved to Hawaii after applying for the patent while working with a mainland tech company.

About 30 patents were awarded to inventors doing work for Hawaii-based and mainland biotech firms. Nine of those patents went to seed crop companies doing research in Hawaii.

SA: Apple let Marriott move here, and his patent arrived later

SA: Lawyer tries to have satellite patent office based in Honolulu

read … Retirees

Understanding legislative process useful for businesses

SA: A new session of the state Legislature started on Wednesday. How can I find about bills that could affect my business?

read … Legislative Process

Small Kine Bribery: Ethics Commission Demands Further Discussions Be Held in Public

ILind: In her letter this week, Sullivan said any further discussions should take place in a public meeting rather than behind closed doors.

If you and the other Senators are interested in continuing our discussion, I would welcome that opportunity; however, because one of the Commission’s duties may require us to consider issues as a quasi-judicial body, I think that it is necessary and prudent for any further discussion to be as part of a public Commission meeting. As you know, much of government ethics is premised on public perception. For that reason, I am concerned that we may harm the public’s confidence in the Commission’s ability to perform its statutory responsibilities if there is any suggestion that the private meetings with you and the other Senators have compromised the Commission’s ability to be objective and impartial.

A copy of Sullivan’s letter was also sent to House Speaker Calvin Say.

Sullivan has been chair of the commission since 2008. Her term expires next year.

read … Ethics Commission to Legislature: Let’s talk in public

Tax Cheat Hooser: Red Tape is a Red Herring

SA: Red tape is a red herring. Without question, the vast majority of projects that fall under Hawaii's environmental review law, Chapters 341 and 343, Hawaii Revised Statutes, go forward without delay or legal challenge. Yes, when someone attempts to circumvent the law or avoid doing what is obvious, pono and in the public interest, the project may end up in court or even on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.

My experience as director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control is that most do not really understand the law.

Chapter 341-1 states: "The Legislature finds that the quality of the environment is as important to the welfare of the people of Hawaii as is the economy of the State."….

Bashers of Chapter 343 will often speak of the very small "manini" projects that have no environmental impact whatsoever and yet are forced to go through an onerous, time-consuming and expensive environmental review process. This is flat-out just not true.

Any project expected to have no or negligible environmental impacts can be exempted from the process in a simple, fast and straightforward manner. This can be completed in one day and on a single sheet of paper. In fact, the vast majority of projects in Hawaii are exempted in just this way.

If the impacts are more than negligible but not likely to be significant, then an environmental assessment (EA) is needed. Significance can mean irrevocably committing a natural resource, curtailing the range of beneficial uses of the environment, or adversely affecting the economic welfare, social welfare or cultural practices of the community and state.

If impacts are expected to be significant, a full environmental impact statement (EIS) is required. Less than a dozen or so projects a year, at most, go on to a full EIS.

Know the author: Sen. Gary Hooser campaign website linked to Holocaust deniers

read … 'Red tape' is a red herring when it comes to protecting our environment

Bill 52 & 53: Undoing 36 years of Waikiki Blight Caused by Urban Planning

SA: In the backside of the Waikiki Special District, new development is surrounded by blight in part because of the restrictions from city regulations adopted in 1976 to set height, density and setback requirements. While the rules helped stop Waikiki from becoming an urban jungle, they had the unintended effect of rendering many owners unable to improve their nonconforming properties or sell them for a good price.

Owners of lots under 10,000 square feet were so hard hit by the criteria that only three small lots were developed or redeveloped in the Waikiki Apartment Precinct in the more than three decades since the special district was established. Without investment in the small lots, which make up the largest portion of Waikiki, eyesores have grown.

"The Waikiki Special District Land Use Ordinance was a misguided and flawed attempt at urban planning that went astray," said Cal Dickinson, who owns a 4,500-square-foot vacant lot, sandwiched on Kalaimoku Street between a luxury condo and boarded-up buildings, decrepit rental units, weed-infested lots and illegal parking lots.

Dickinson's lot has been vacant since he bought it for $700,000 at the end of 2010. However, he and others are hopeful that the passage of city Bills 52 and 53 last month amending the 1976 ordinance will stimulate development in the deteriorating portions of the district.

read … Waikiki

DHHL: New Puunene prison would benefit Native Hawaiians

MN: Albert "Alapaki" Nahale-a, the department's director and chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission, told The Maui News last week that his department wants to move the prison project forward as part of an overall master plan for the area and as a way to help Native Hawaiians. Other master plan projects include hundreds of acres of agricultural homesteads, commercial and industrial complexes and water and wastewater treatment plants. Alexander & Baldwin, DHHL, the state, Maui County and Pacific Rim Land own property in the area.

For the prison project, the department is hoping to find a developer to build it and then sell it back to the state over years in a lease-to-own program, Nahale-a said. The state Department of Public Safety would operate the facility.

The lease-to-own idea would need to be approved by state lawmakers, he said. It's too late to get the project in the pipeline for this year's legislative session, but he said DHHL officials are hoping to get the project before lawmakers in time for the 2013 session.

read … Puunene

Maui County aims to overhaul grant supervision

MN: Maui County could streamline the way it grants millions of dollars to nonprofit agencies and eliminate the volunteer Grants Review Committee under changes being considered by the administration and County Council.

County Budget Director Sandy Baz said officials hoped the changes would lead to more consistency in how the county handles its grants and better oversight of how more than $18 million a year is being spent. As a first step, he said, the administration hoped to shift management of grants currently under the Department of Housing and Human Concerns to the Finance Department, starting July 1.

(The word “audit” occurs nowhere in this article.)

read … Slush fund for Ward Heelers

Food Innovation Center Will Support Local Farmers and Ranchers

CB: The new Food Innovation Center at UHMC will act as a business incubator providing the space and equipment for research, development and small-scale production of value-added food products.

read … Commercial Kitchen

HPD officer killed in Aiea auto accident

HNN: Initial reports indicate that an officer came up to a stalled vehicle and pulled over to assist, but before he could get out of his vehicle he was hit from behind by another vehicle.

Rescue crews had a difficult time getting to the scene because the freeway was completely closed going in both directions.

SA: Police officer dies in H-1 freeway crash

read … Officer Killed

Military IDs Marines killed in helicopter crash

AP: The crash in the southern province of Helmand was the deadliest in Afghanistan since August, when 30 American troops died after a Chinook helicopter was apparently shot down in Wardak province in the center of the country. All six were based at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, said base spokeswoman 1st Lt. Diann Olson.
The dead were Capt. Daniel Bartle, 27, of Ferndale, Wash.; Capt. Nathan McHone, 29, of
Crystal Lake, Ill.; Master Sgt. Travis Riddick, 40, of Centerville, Iowa; Cpl. Jesse Stites, 23, of North Beach, Md.; Cpl. Kevin Reinhard, 25, of Colonia, N.J.; and Cpl. Joseph Logan, 22, of Willis, Texas.

read … Marines


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