Key to Hawaii’s Future is Business Climate
Political Future? Djou Speaks, Lingle on Tap
Saddam Hussein's Honolulu Airplane Bomber to be Released Early
Video: Hawaii Advisory Team Postures Afghan Police for Counter-IED Success
HB411/SB1109: Will Legislators Force HMC Hospitals to Close -- Again?
SA: House Bill 411 and its companion, Senate Bill 1109, would require emergency rooms statewide to offer emergency contraception to rape victims. The House bill was passed by the Senate Health Committee, but the Senate bill has not yet been taken up in the House….
According to the FDA, approved emergency contraception drugs such as the one marketed as Plan B One-Step … "may prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb."….
Rep. Sharon Har (D, Kapolei-Makakilo), vice chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee, said she supported an amendment proposed by Rep. Richard Fale (R, North Shore) that would have permitted a religiously affiliated hospital or a hospital legally bound by a religious or ethical directive to take sexual assault victims to another hospital after stabilizing them, provided the hospital covers the cost of transport.
However, Rep. Della Au Belatti (D, Tantalus-Makiki), chairwoman of the House Health Committee, said allowing transport to another hospital would cause undue harm to victims.
"I really wanted to have the best care at the very first place they may stop or report to," she said.
St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii, which ran the former Hawaii Medical Center West campus before it closed in 2011, sought exemptions from compassionate care bills in the past because the hospital contended that a law requiring it to dispense emergency contraception would force it to violate its religious tenets against abortion.
The Queen's Medical Center finalized a deal in December to purchase the facility and reopen it as Queen's Medical Center-West Oahu next year, but has stated on its website that it agreed with St. Francis Healthcare to follow the ethical and religious directives for Catholic health care services.
The contract, however, is confidential, so lawmakers are unsure what effect, if any, an emergency contraception law would have on the hospital.
While many are confident the sale will continue uninterrupted, Har said she isn't so sure.
"Without understanding what were the terms of the agreement, I do have concerns about this bill," Har said. "Because worst-case scenario: For all we know the land could revert back to the sisters of St. Francis because they've now violated a covenant, and now Queen's West doesn't open. Or another worst-case scenario (is) they say, ‘You know what? This applies only to emergency rooms. Because we don't want to be held in violation of our agreement with the sisters, we will now not open an emergency room.' I mean there's a myriad of things that could happen."
2012: HB127: Will Legislature Vote to Keep HMC Hospitals Closed?
2011: Abercrombie Doubles Down on Policies Which Killed HMC Hospitals
read … Will They Force HMC West to Close?
Homelessness Industry: Stanley Chang’s $77M Push for Tent City
SA: Eric Ramaila lives under a plastic tarp on the sidewalk across the street from the $350 million Hawai’i Convention Center at the gateway to Waikiki, the state’s largest generator of tourism revenue.
Ramaila recycles cans for money and says one day he’ll sell the urine (Indecent exposure) that he stores in a commercial-size jar for bigger bucks. He doesn’t want to go to a shelter because it would curtail his business plan. (Solution: Make him want it.)
“I keep topping it off,” Ramaila said, pointing to his jar, which is filled to the brim with his urine. “You can make money off (excrement) and pee. I save it.” (When the tent cities are built, he will come to your neighborhood, until you buy him off and he leaves. It is a shakedown and you are the mark.)
Passers-by, some of them tourists, walk out of the way or into the street to avoid getting too close to Ramaila and about 12 other homeless campers who are blocking sidewalk access and loitering in the convention center promenade. Others, who come to Hawaii for the sun, sand and surf, are so dumbfounded by the Hooverville-style shantytown that once they get a safe distance they pull out a camera and snap a few photos….
He is proposing that the city spend $77 million on housing and homeless solutions, including building places of refuge, or tent cities, for Oahu’s homeless.
Chang’s (utterly moronic) concept, which is (not) rooted in ancient Hawaiian safe zones called “puuhonua,” would provide no-frills, hassle-free housing for homeless people who
have not had success in traditional housing or shelters smoke meth all the time. Round-the-clock security and access to social services would be (paid for but in practice not) provided…. (Puuhonua were places of refuge from the death sentence given to breakers of kapu. Instead of the death penalty, the homeless are rewarded for staying on the streets. Doesn’t anybody study Hawaii history around here?)
State Housing Coordinator Colin Kippen and Mitchell of the IHS said they are excited by the possibility of additional funding for homeless solutions, but they don't think tent cities should be an option.
Kippen said the Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness conducted a study on campsites and concluded that it's not a good idea to allow homeless there.
"What ends up happening is that a temporary situation becomes permanent," Kippen said. "We are more interested in getting people off the streets and into permanent housing."
Mitchell said other municipalities that have experimented with tent cities inevitably took them down.
"In Fort Lauderdale (Florida), they set up a tent city and the criminal element came in and took it over," she said.
Mitchell said providing services to homeless people is challenging if they don't have a roof over their head. She's also not sure that Oahu's homeless population would readily leave Waikiki or other neighborhoods where they have established roots.
On any given night, IHS has about 20 vacant beds at its shelter for women and families and about 50 vacancies at its men's shelter. Mitchell attributes the vacancies to the lack of inclement weather on Oahu, shelter locations, rules such as a ban on pets, drugs and alcohol, and a zero-tolerance policy on violence.
“I would be interested in a tent city if it was convenient in all aspects,” said Marcelo Bitanga, (Solution: Let the police make homelessness inconvenient in all aspects.) a 54-year-old man (pictured with three stolen shopping carts) who has been homeless off and on for 30 years and has spent the past year living on the streets and sidewalks of Waikiki. “I like to stay by the recycling center because it’s easy.” Hard-core recyclers can make $40 or $50 a day in Waikiki picking up cans and turning them in for rebates, Bitanga said. (One more reason to cancel the bottle tax.) People also get frequent handouts in the tourist district, he said. (Clue: Stop giving these bums money.)
He recommends that the city buy the vacant lot across from the convention center and put a tent city there.
Reality: Homeless tent cities: Seattle’s decade-long nightmare coming to Honolulu?
read … A test of your stupidity and weakness
SB946: $520M/year to Pay for Retirees Health Care
SA: "The $100 million is more symbolic than it is substantive," said Randy Perreira, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, representing more than 29,000 state and countyworkers. "It's not going to get us anywhere near meeting theobligation in the long haul."
The liability comes from the promise made to state and county employees to pay as much as 100 percent of their health insurance premiums in retirement, including the premiums for their spouses and dependents. Last year the state and counties paid an average $9,134 to 41,754 retirees. The total came to $381.4 million and is projected to grow to more than $1 billion by 2026.
The state has always paid the retiree health benefits out of the general fund. Until now it hasn't set aside funds for the future obligation to retirees.
The state House this month approved Gov. Neil Abercrombie's budget request to devote $100 million in fiscal year 2014 and $105 million in fiscal year 2015 to address the growing retiree health insurance liability. If passed, House Bill 200 would be the first time the state has contributed to the unfunded costs. The counties have contributed more than $200 million since 2008 to pre-fund their portion of the debt….
Paying $100 million now "is prudent financially," Young said. "If you don't pre-fund … the pay-as-you-go amount will grow to the point that it will consume larger and larger portions of tax dollars, leaving less money to be spent on government services and programs."
In addition to the governor's budget proposal, Senate Bill 946 advancing in the Legislature would require the state to increase contributions over five years, eventually reaching $520 million to pre-fund the future costs. The bill also would create an investment mechanism to invest trust-fund dollars.
read … Part of the Story
Team Oxycontin Reunites for Ethics Bill Kabuki
HTH: Bills introduced in the House and Senate that would have cut back the exemption, which the head of the state’s Ethics Commission says prevents the fair treatment provision of the code from applying to any action legislators take, well, as legislators, died in their first committees without getting a hearing.
Sen. Josh Green, who introduced one of the bills, said he was disappointed by the lack of attention the issue received and was unsure why the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor didn’t consider it.
Sen. Clayton Hee, who chairs the committee, didn’t return a request for comment….
Sen. Karl Rhoads, the committee chair, said the legislation wasn’t discussed primarily because the task force exemption had just been adopted last year and he wanted to give more time for its impacts to become clear. He also said he doesn’t believe the exemption for legislators was expanded much at all.
“If you read the beginning of the bill, it looks like the guts of the fair treatment provision are still there and still apply to legislators,” said Rhoads, D-Oahu.
“I viewed them as a task-force policy reversal bill.”
Kondo has said the broader exemption kept the Ethics Commission from considering charges against Green for getting involved in a billing dispute between a health care company and the city of Honolulu.
Green had sent correspondence on his legislative letterhead on Aug. 9 urging the city to resolve the dispute. He didn’t specifically take the side of the company, Automated HealthCare Solutions, but he labeled the city’s settlement as unreasonable and urged a timely resolution, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
Kondo told the Tribune-Herald in November that Green’s letter could have been a potential violation of the fair treatment provision before the exemption was broadened.
Related: Oxycontin Contributions: Clayton Hee, Josh Green, Karl Rhoads and HB466
read … Kabuki
Clayton Hee Helps Campaign Contributor Evade Ethics Problem
Sen. Clayton Hee, a Democrat from Oahu, introduced the latest bill. Hee, who also chairs the Committee on Judiciary and Labor, which deals with ethics issues, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Dang said he thinks the bill is needed to clarify for the record that the Legislature didn’t intend for the task force to be governed by the ethics code.
He noted that the Legislature selected his association to be represented on the task force, and therefore, he said he was expected to represent his employer’s point of view.
“I represent the views of my client while on the task force,” Dang said. “That’s the whole nature of the task force.”
Mollway also believes the ethics code is being misapplied and noted in his written testimony that the commission’s statute of limitations would allow members of the task force to face an ethics charge within six years of the alleged violation.
“For this reason, the bill should be enacted into law to protect members of the Mortgage Foreclosure Task Force … who all appear to be still in jeopardy as to the misapplication,” he said.
The original version of the legislation, Senate Bill 893, also makes the statement that the Legislature didn’t intend for the foreclosure task force to be governed by the ethics code, though the bill creating the group made no mention of it.
The amended version of SB 893 cut out specific references to the foreclosure task force. It would still be covered by the bill.
Dang, who made a $200 donation to Hee’s campaign last year, said he considers the lawmaker a friend.
read … The Ethics of Experts
Shapiro: Clayton Hee is a Chihuahua
» Sen. Clayton Hee called out a fellow senator who criticized him by declaring, "I'm your huckleberry," a line made famous by the gunfighter Doc Holiday in "Tombstone." Clayton Hee is to a gunfighter what the Taco Bell chihuahua is to a pit bull.
» Public school teachers held a protest rally at the Capitol, chanting, "If we don't get no contract, you don't get no peace." Either way, our educators don't got no grammar.
read … Shapiro
Crooks, Cronies Meet at Abercrombie Fundraiser
PR: The governor, according to a source who attended, talked about the state's financial turnaround since he took office in 2010.
The event was part of a soft rollout for Abercrombie's re-election campaign, which has mostly been in fundraising mode. A potential primary challenge next year from U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, has accelerated the importance of locking down allies in addition to money.
The Abercrombie Leadership Council 2014 includes some of the state's top political, corporate, legal and labor players, with heavyweights such as John Waihee, Bert A. Kobayashi, Don Horner, Colbert Matsumoto, Paul Alston, Rick Fried, Dennis Mitsunaga, Joseph Pickard, Stanford Carr and J.N. Musto.
read … Crooks, Cronies … but which are which?
Bigger tip credit would ease wage increase
SA: if passed as written, that we will be giving an increase to the wrong group of employees. You see, our minimum-wage employees also receive tips; they are our best-compensated employees.
How can an increased minimum-wage law help the 3,000-plus restaurants in Hawaii? The solution is to increase the tip credit. The federal tip credit is $5.12; Hawaii's is 25 cents. An increase in this credit would greatly assist our restaurants….
If the minimum wage is increased, correspondingly increase the tip credit. This way, the employees who need a higher wage will get it. Restaurants will feel an impact but it will not be as severe or devastating
Related: How Hawaii Minimum Wage Workers Earn $24.24 per hour
read … Tip Credit
Approve bills to fix schools bus system
SA: This year's main legislation — Senate Bill 1082 — would eliminate the DOE's "atypically specifying contractual requirements by statute" and allow it to set policies with more flexibility in awarding, executing and managing bus contracts….
Another bill, SB 1083, would eliminate the requirement that school bus contracts provide wages that at least match wages paid to public employees who do similar work, as recommended by the Maryland consultant. That change would "stimulate competitive bidding," which would help reduce costs, it predicted….
Significantly, the 12-company Hawaii School Bus Association has not opposed the legislation.
read … Fix Bus System?
High cost of recycling glass bottles shatters eco-efforts
Borreca: Since 1994, importers of glass bottles have had to pay the state 1.5 cents per bottle. The biggest payers are those firms bringing in wine and liquor. The state gives the money to the counties for recycling programs.
The Tax Foundation of Hawaii estimates liquor distributors last year brought in 28 million glass containers, generating about $420,000 in fees.
The state and the counties want the tax on so-called "non-deposit glass containers" raised by between 200 and 400 percent, going from 1.5 cents to either 3 cents or 6 cents, depending on the size of the glass container.
The bill before the House, Senate Bill 1131, was requested by the Abercrombie administration because the city and the counties were losing money on the recycling program. The program is separate from the 5 cents you get back for recycling plastic, glass and metal cans.
"The cost to ship glass to West Coast facilities to be remanufactured into new glass containers exceeds the market value of the glass," said Lori Kahikina, city director of environmental services in testimony….
Even then the Tax Foundation noted in a research paper on the issue that in 2011 the bottle fund, called the Advance Disposal Fee, paid out more money to the counties than the fund generated.
So the state is giving the counties more than they collect for the program of buying back old glass. And then the counties are losing money because it costs more in shipping than they get selling the glass on the West Coast.
It is a textbook example of "buy high, sell low."
Best Comment: “Why ship the glass out of state......glass can be crushed and made into many things........mixed with asphalt for roads etc. With a little imagination the recycled glass can be used efficiently, and may save other resources.....but politicians only think in terms of money and the easiest way to get it!......Taxes.......the article rightly states....those mayors would be fired if they ran a business or were held accountable for properly managing resources!”
read … Recycling
Kauai Budget Proposes Millions in New Taxes
KGI: …all classes of tax rates are being proposed to go up, with the exception of the homestead class, which would keep its rates at $3.05 for each $1,000 of assessed value.
The homestead class has a Permanent Home Use tax cap set by Honolulu’s Consumer Price Index. The cap protects those locked in at lower rates from a skyrocketing market, while still ensuring a small increase. Carvalho said the cap has created inequities and it’s time to consider lifting it.
The tax rate increases would add some $11 million to county coffers.
Since 2008, when the RPT revenues peaked at $90.74 million, falling real estate prices caused those revenues to shrink each year. The new tax rates would bring the revenues closer to the 2008 tax revenues.
Other proposed fee increases would bring approximately $3 million in FY 2014.
An increase to the Vehicle Weight Tax, which would go into effect Jan. 1, would bring more than $1 million to the county next fiscal year, and more than $2 million in subsequent years. Also, an increase in vehicle registrations would go into effect Jan. 1 and bring an estimated $208,343 to the county for the remainder of FY 2014.
A 2-cent raise in the gasoline tax would bring an estimated $569,000 annually to the county. Commuters who fill up a 15-gallon tank once a week would pay approximately $15 more per year on gas.
The Kaua‘i Bus monthly pass is being proposed to increase to $30 from $25, and the annual pass to $300 from $240, bringing an additional $60,000 in revenues.
An increase to $119 from $90 per ton in the Solid Waste Tipping Fee for commercial deliveries would bring $1 million in additional revenues.
A new structure in Planning Department fees would bring roughly $140,000 in new revenues.
read … FY Kauai 2014 budget reduces costs, freezes hiring, raises taxes, fees
PCBs found in Kauai water tank
SA: Scrapings of the tank’s inner wall were confirmed March 14 to contain PCBs, as well as the exterior wall. And caulking used on the tank’s exterior wall may also contain PCBs and could be a possible source, the Health Department said.
The Environmental Protection Agency banned use of PCBs in 1979, but they may be present in many products manufactured before the ban. The tank was built in 1971.
In December, the Health Department found during routine testing trace amounts of a PCB, and discovered an oily sheen containing PCBs on the surface of the water in the tank that serves a population of 2,200 people on Kauai’s North Shore….
(Question: How long until the hypesters start blaming GMOs?)
read … PCBs
Outrigger raises a few eyebrows with appeal of Waikiki retail project
SA: Project developer TRG IMP LLC, an affiliate of Michigan-based mall developer Taubman Centers Inc., received approval from the city Department of Planning and Permitting on Jan. 2 for a major special district permit, a necessary step in Waikiki construction. The company intends to build a 360,000-square-foot open-air retail, dining and entertainment complex. The new development will consist of one anchor store and will house approximately 60 retail shops and five to seven restaurants. The project also will include about 750 parking spaces in a five-story garage.
Outrigger Hotels Hawaii and RP/OE Waikiki Beachcomber LLC have asked a city review board to withdraw the permit for the project, which it contends would create traffic and noise disruptions. In their filing, Outrigger said that the city's planning director acted in an "arbitrary or capricious manner, manifestly abused his discretion and/or acted based on erroneous findings of fact."
"We filed an appeal on a couple of issues. One of them had to do with loading zones. There are a few near our buildings, and we were concerned about noise," said David Carey, president and CEO of Outrigger Enterprises Group. "The other aspect was parking. I drive down Kuhio Avenue every day, and I've got to tell you, part of their plan would change traffic."
"I've been here 11 years and never seen anything like this," said Waikiki Neighborhood Board Member Jeff Merz, who is an urban planner. "It's unusual in this community for hotels to publicly fight or argue or appeal other commercial entities because when they want to do their own changes, it might come back to bite them."
There is an even odder twist to this story. Queen Emma Land, which owns the land under the International Market Place project, also owns the land under three Outrigger hotels: the Outrigger Waikiki, Holiday Inn Beachcomber and Ohana East. Carey said Outrigger did not ask Queen Emma Land to extend its lease for the Ohana West when it expired in 2010; however, at least one of the current leases bind the parties for three more decades.
read … International Marketplace
Single magic mushroom 'can make you into a liberal’
Hilo: Future Mortgage Scam Victims target Monsanto (photos)
Muslims Tear Down Parts of Grand Mosque in Mecca
Individuals are encouraged to invest in state bonds
Slain inmate awaited plea deal
Astronomers Give Hawaiian Names to Kupier Belt Objects
Warrant sweep leads to 32 arrests
Laie plans would ruin rural North Shore
GMO protest greets legislators boarding bus to “Taste of AG” event
Minor hearing Monday in (de)Occupy lawsuit against city