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Monday, August 22, 2011
August 22, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:22 PM :: 13274 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, National News, Development

Can Abercrombie Administration impose Billions in Carbon Fees without Legislative Vote?

Hawaii Marine Artillery keeps watch in Helmand Province

Car Bomb: Maui Soldier tells Story of Survival

Military Spending: In pursuit of Ideology, Hirono Votes Against 18% of Hawaii Economy

Mostly, Hanabusa and Hirono voted the same way. Out of 691 votes, there were 87 times — or 13 percent — that they did not….

About one-third of the time that Hanabusa and Hirono voted differently, it was because one of them didn't vote at all. Of the 691 roll call votes, Hanabusa abstained from six votes, while Hirono abstained 23 times….

Hawaii's congresswomen had consistently different approaches to defense appropriations. Hirono voted against the passage of three extensive defense appropriations bills, while Hanabusa voted for them….

All three passed, and Hanabusa was usually among a minority of Democrats voting in support of these bills. …

Hanabusa said her belief in the importance of the military's role in Hawaii came before her concerns about the United States' path forward in Afghanistan, for example….

Hirono cites her concern over foreign policy in the Middle East as the reason she repeatedly voted against defense appropriations bills. (Like most Progressive Caucus Members, Hirono wants a quick US surrender in Iraq and Afghanistan)

"If I wanted to express a concern about the fact that we were not winding down and bringing our troops home from Afghanistan quickly enough, I would express my sentiments through my votes on those bills," Hirono told Civil Beat. "I can tell you one thing: I'm very aware of how important military activity is in Hawaii. If ever there was a bill that made huge, huge cuts... I certainly would not be supporting such a bill." (uh-huh, that’s nice….)

Related: RAND: Military is 18% of Hawaii’s Economy (Full Text)

read … When Hawaii's U.S. Reps Don't Vote the Same Way

Gingrich addresses TEA Party of Maui

Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich spoke about his core values to about 150 applauding TEA Party of Maui members Saturday during a brief campaign tour of Hawaii.

Local TEA Party President John Kerr said he and a number of his colleagues were impressed with Gingrich's hourlong speech, which emphasized many of their own core values, including less but more-open government, a balanced budget amendment, developing fossil fuel sources in America - and no new taxes.

Gingrich didn't appear to be running against any GOP foe for the Republican nomination, which is more than a year away, but instead concentrated on Barack Obama in the president's home state.

"The current president is the best food stamp president in American history," Gingrich said to the packed room in the back of the modest church. "I would like to be the best paycheck president in U.S. history."

read … Gingrich: Obama divided U.S.

Hawaii Patriots: Massive Turn Out Supports Family of Fallen U.S Marine Christopher Camero

With the Annunciation Church bell ringing and with the assembled congregation and the chorus singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Chris’s body was loaded into the hearse. Then began the slow, police-led cavalcade procession that included dozens of Patriot Guard Riders on Harley Davidson motorcycles, immediate family members and dozens of other vehicles with his family and friends. The procession would stretch for miles.

read … Chris Camero

Lifelong Criminal Lectures Kauai Police Commission on Sovereignty

a sovereignty group on Kaua‘i remains concerned that local law enforcement needs more awareness to avoid interfering with individuals exercising those rights.

Prime Minister Henry Noa (long felony record) and Kekane Pa of the “Reinstated Hawaiian Government” delivered that message to the county Police Commission at its July 22 meeting.

“It is their responsibility and they should go find out, whereas we are doing exactly what we have a right to do — that is reclaiming our sovereign national right within the application of perfect rights,” Noa said.

Background: Maui County Council joining “Reinstated Hawaiian Kingdom?”

Read … Sovereignty group works to reclaim rights

EUTF Audit: Another Deficit Year for Hawaii's Public Employee Health Insurance Fund

The trust fund that pays for Hawaii state and county employees' health insurance ended the 2010 fiscal year nearly $5 million in the red, according to an audit issued late Thursday.

The long-overdue financial audit, performed by Macias Gini & O'Connell of California, covers the year ended June 30, 2010. A report for fiscal 2011 is expected before December.

The $5 million deficit was an improvement over the prior year, when the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund was $17.7 million in the red.

The fund generated revenues of $263.06 million and expenses of $250.3 million. The fund would have seen a positive $12.7 million balance for the year, had it not been for inheriting the previous year's negative $17.7 million ending balance. That resulted in the negative $4.92 million as of June 30, 2010.

The EUTF oversees health and life insurance benefits for 171,025 public workers, retirees and their dependents. That includes 53,900 active employees, 39,285 retirees
, and 77,840 dependents, according to the audit.

During the year that ended June 30, 2010, the state and counties contributed $513.2 million into the fund while employees contributed $160.1 million. The EUTF paid out $590.7 million in premiums and self-insured claims. Medicare Part B reimbursements for retirees accounted for an additional $44.8 million.

read … $5 Million

Hawaii PUC Lags Far Behind Other States

Rulings that take 60 to 90 days to decide in other states, take two to three years in Hawaii, according to Neil Abercrombie during his gubernatorial campaign.

The most recent data that Civil Beat could obtain for average time to resolve rate cases throughout the country had Hawaii coming in second to last, with only Oklahoma worse. Between 1990 and 2003, the average time it took Hawaii’s PUC to process rate cases was 20 months. In Oklahoma, it was 20.5 months.

The average time for processing rate cases in the rest of the states ranged from seven months to 15.8 months.

The median throughout all the states was 9.1 months, and the average was 10 months. Meaning, in Hawaii it was taking twice as long as the national average. …

About half of its staffing positions have remained vacant for four years. It could hire more people, but it would be in violation of federal occupational safety and health regulations, because its office doesn't have enough space….The Legislature allocated funding for it to move to the basement of its current building. But another state agency is currently there “with no plans to vacate in the near future,” according to Morita….

Last year, Standard & Poor's downgraded Hawaiian Electric's credit rating to a notch above junk, in part because of "regulatory lag."

The downgrade could make it significantly harder for the utility – and the state – to meet its goal of 40 percent renewable energy by 2030, according to a recent report by Navigant Consulting.

"Navigant believes that a credit impaired utility is a significant obstacle to the State in a number of ways, including the State’s ability to meet the 40% RPS standard established by law," according to the report. "A financially weak HECO will not be able to enter into the broad range of [contracts] that will be necessary to guaranty a diverse renewable portfolio."

Totally Related: Can Abercrombie Administration impose Billions in Carbon Fees without Legislative Vote?

read … Hawaii PUC Lags Far Behind Other States

Prosecutor seeks restitution review in Aloun Farms Slavery case

The forced-labor case involving Aloun Farms on Oahu continues to unravel weeks after a judge tossed it out.

Now federal prosecutors are seeking the suspension of $48,000 in ordered restitution by a man who pleaded guilty in the case.

Matee Chowsanitphon was the middleman between Thai recruiters and Aloun Farms owners Alec and Mike Sou.

Chowsanitphon, who helped the Sous bring in 44 Thai nationals to work at the farm, pleaded guilty two years ago to a felony related to visa fraud and agreed to pay $2,000 each to 24 of the workers.

But federal prosecutors here and with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., have asked that the payments be held in "abeyance."

They said they are reviewing whether there are any "potential effects" from what they called "unanticipated developments" in the Sous' case on Chowsanitphon's requirement to pay restitution.

They asked for the suspension "in the interest of justice."

Analysis: Human Trafficking: Did the US DoJ Purposefully lose the Aloun Farms Case?

read … Restitution

UH Manoa Perfessers, Administrators Drain secretive UH Foundation Travel Account

Faculty leaders at the University of Hawaii's College of Engineering say they have been "stonewalled" for at least six months trying to get details about how the college spends hundreds of thousands of dollars in private donations each year.

Among the dozens of funds they inquired about was a University of Hawaii Foundation travel account that had been drained to the point that engineering Dean Peter Crouch, overseer of the account, temporarily suspended its use….

Before the account suspension, Crouch himself used $42,000 in foundation funds over two years to take nearly 30 college-related trips to the mainland, Canada, the United Kingdom, Singapore and the neighbor islands, according to a Star-Advertiser analysis of his 2008 and 2009 gift disclosure documents and other UH information….

After his new travel policy was implemented, Crouch used foundation funds during a two-year period ending in June 2009 to cover expenses for 27 off-island trips plus a $690 stay at the Ihilani Resort in Ko Olina for an energy conference, according to his gift disclosure documents. During the second year alone, he went on 15 trips using about $26,500 — more than half the roughly $50,000 of foundation money he oversees for engineering department travel, according to the records and Crouch.

Crouch also defended using $223,000 in foundation funds to renovate the reception area outside the college administration offices, including his own.

(Remember: These people are enlightened, conscious, and progressive. They are superior to ordinary humans who live their lives motivated by greed.)

read … UH engineering faculty questions college spending

SA: IT inefficiencies are pound foolish

The delay in processing the new vehicle fees, besides costing the state $19.2 million in revenue, represents only the latest evidence of the toll that Hawaii's horribly outdated information technology systems has taken.

It's a history that the state's newly appointed chief information officer hopes to correct, but the dimensions of the problem boggle the mind….

The wisdom of the city's postponing its computer chore is debatable, but at the very least the result proves a valuable general point. Hawaii's long-standing philosophy on IT — put off investing in it for as long as you can — can only be described as penny wise and pound foolish. (And yet, this situation has been tolerated for 40 years….)

Consider the stark example provided in recent years by the state Judiciary, in which the labor-intensive task of entering data into computer systems created a mammoth backlog in issuing bench warrants. That compromised public safety: Police may stop a person and then release them without realizing that there are outstanding warrants.

(BTW, why didn’t ACT 221 Tax Credits solve this problem? Just asking ….)

read … IT inefficiencies are pound foolish

 

 

Hawaii lawmakers to get update on plans for public land Sales, Revenues

The Senate and House water and land committees are due to hold a joint meeting on Aug. 30….

The Public Land Development Corp. was created to generate revenue that may be used to offset the regulatory functions of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The corporation is expected to identify public lands that are suitable for redevelopment and determine the best revenue-generating programs for them.

It's also expected to enter into public-private agreements to appropriately redevelop lands.

read … Hawaii lawmakers to get update on public land body

With no law to enforce, police unable to handle Squatter problem plaguing Waikiki

Frustrated Waikiki residents and businesses point to at least eight other locations where multimillion-dollar houses, buildings and lots are sheltering squatters or creating opportunities for the prospect.

Honolulu police have responded to multiple calls at 2107 Ala Wai Blvd., 2240 Waikolu Way, 2126 Lauula St. and 2467 Tusitala St., the lot between Cleghorn and Liliuokalani streets, according to HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu. Police also have visited 445 and 441 Kalaimoku St. a few times, Yu said.

"Calls typically include reports of trespassing, graffiti and property damage, all of which require a legal representative to initiate a complaint," she said. "No trespass warnings have been issued at the listed addresses, likely because the property's legal representative wasn't present."

Yu said Hawaii does not have any laws prohibiting what is commonly known as squatting. Officers can issue a trespass warning on private property only if the property's legal representative is present, she said.

Sacks noted that "the cops tell them to go, and they come right back."

 

read … Squatters

Catamaran businesses wary of permit plan

Currently, Waikiki's seven catamaran operators pay an $8.50 annual registration fee and a small percentage of gross income in exchange for a berth at Kewalo Basin or the Ala Wai Harbor. The percentage depends on the size of the slip.

Brown, for instance, said he pays 2 percent of gross revenues in harbor fees.

Now the state wants to collect an additional 3 percent of monthly gross — or $200, whichever is greater.

Based on average monthly gross receipts for an operator of $32,000, a Waikiki catamaran would generate $960 per month in fees, said Ed Underwood, administrator of the state Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.

read … Catamaran businesses wary of permit plan

VIDEO: Hilo, Senior League World Series champs, return to Hawaii

Landing at the Hilo International Airport under the Hawaii County Fire Department water cannon salute, a display reserved for only the most honored arrivals, the team of all stars was greeted by a joyous mob of friends, family and fans who had been keeping close tabs on the boys’ title run.

read … Hilo Senior League

OPT trials wave device ahead of US radar network deployment

US firm Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) has floated out a new self-powering wave-energy device for sea trials off New Jersey.

The system is due to be deployed as part of a radar network used by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Coast Guard’s search and rescue service.

The device, a smaller version of OPT’s utility-scale PowerBuoy now being tested off Scotland and Hawaii, uses a pioneering power take-off and on-board energy storage system that makes it well-suited to off-grid wave energy production in remote locations.

read … Wave Energy

Hawaii amends its UI law regarding part-time/partial employment

Hawaii has amended its Employment Security Law as follows….

read … UI Law

Ex-Honolulu stockbroker to be sentenced for fraud

The 42-year-old Kimura pleaded guilty in April. Prosecutors say that while he was a stockbroker at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in Honolulu, he induced members of his wife's family to deposit more than $2.1 million in accounts. They unknowingly applied for and received Morgan Stanley Dean Witter checks, which Kimura used.

Prosecutors say Kimura made stock trades with funds from his father-in-law's company, resulting in about $360,000 in losses.

read … Ryan Kimura

Big Island overrun by Cannibal Frogs

"It's not true that the frogs are getting larger. What's going on is that the populations of the frogs are maturing, so there are more and more frogs that are living longer. They don't stop growing until 6 or 7 years old, so there are more large, adult frogs showing up with more frequency," he said.

…larger adult coquis also tend to be cannibalistic. "They'll eat younger, smaller frogs," he said. "They'll eat just about anything that's smaller than them."

read … Coquis may be leveling off

New data spill shows risk of online health records

Until recently, medical files belonging to nearly 300,000 Californians sat unsecured on the Internet for the entire world to see.

There were insurance forms, Social Security numbers and doctors' notes. Among the files were summaries that spelled out, in painstaking detail, a trucker's crushed fingers, a maintenance worker's broken ribs and one man's bout with sexual dysfunction.

read … Data Spill


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