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Tuesday, March 20, 2012
March 20, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:20 PM :: 3518 Views :: Hawaii State Government
 

Faking it for the Feds, Abercrombie Prepares to Impose Another ‘Last, Best, and Final Offer’ on HSTA

SB755: Poker Bill Gutted and Replaced with Language from 'Dirty Dozen'

Enviros ‘Unequivocally’ Protest Gutting of Environmental Laws, Open Government Laws

Hawaii Superferry Headed for Okinawa

Honolulu Joins National Rally for Religious Freedom

Borreca to Abercrombie: Quit, Fool

Borreca: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no use being a damn fool about it," advised W.C. Fields.

This just may be the operative description to Gov. Neil Abercrombie's approach to team building.

In the 14 months since taking the oath of office, Abercrombie has seen a staggering number of directors, deputy directors, agency heads, senior advisers and even commissioners resign.

For those hoping for a steady hand, or at least a fortnight without rumors of another shuffling of the deck chairs, the Abercrombie administration makes rumbling Kilauea look like stable ground….

After losing his senior advisers, questions were raised about Abercrombie's ability to manage effectively.

"I don't know what's going on upstairs, but for those of us who are looking at it, it is a concern particularly at this critical time for the state," Linda Smith, former Gov. Linda Lingle's senior adviser, said at the time.

When Lingle lost her long-time confidant Bob Awana, who was her chief of staff, the Lingle administration was jolted.

With Abercrombie, the instability has become a constant of his administration.

During his first year in office, Abercrombie stumbled badly by demanding the resignation of members of the Stadium Authority, the Land Use Commission, Board of Land and Natural Resources plus the PUC. The appointees, all holdovers from the Lingle administration, for the most part refused Abercrombie's call. But the pattern of heavy-handed attempts to control semi-autonomous boards and commissions was set.

Today, the public is watching an administration that is less about progress or accomplishment and more about just churning.

(Too bad Borreca and the rest of Abercrombie’s former media darlings consciously refused to tell this story about Abercrombie during his 20 years in Congress.)

read … Unstable, Churning, Volcanic

Hawaii insurers excluded from health insurance exchange

PBN: Hawaii lawmakers have amended a bill establishing the state's first health insurance exchange to exclude the Hawaii Medical Service Association, Kaiser Permanente and Hawaii Dental Service from the 11-member board.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce amended Senate Bill 2434 after hearing testimony from consumer advocates who said including the state's largest health insurers from the exchange, known as the Hawaii Health Connector, would be a conflict of interest.

The newspaper reports that the bill would also exclude the Hawaii Primary Care Association and the Maui Medical Group, and that Harris Nakamoto, who represented the Ohana Health Plan, withdrew from consideration after accepting a job with Kaiser, which means Gov. Neil Abercrombie must replace six appointees.

read … Hawaii insurers excluded from health insurance exchange

SB755: “Gut & replace” bill poses broad threat to environmental regulation

ILind: SB755 started out last year as a gambling bill proposing to authorize two licenses for “peer-to-peer entertainment,” including poker.

This week it morphed into a virtual smorgasbord of exemptions from environmental reviews and regulations for a wide range of state and county projects. Worried about the impact of that big interisland cable to move electricity between the islands? You better be, because it looks like this will allow it to be done without any pesky environmental restrictions.

And the proposed monster draft of SB755 is suddenly on tomorrow’s agenda for a joint hearing of the committees on Water, Land, & Ocean Resources, and Energy & Environmental Protection.

How did it happen? Someone lifted the title from SB755 (RELATING TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT) and replaced the entire bill with a totally different bill on a totally different subject than poker. Gut and replace, as they call it.

The proposed HD2 wouldn’t just gut the bill, it would gut environmental regulations for at least a three-year period.

read … “Gut & replace” bill poses broad threat to environmental regulation

SB2785 Big Wind: Still The Same Old Bill With A New Number

CB: Last year’s attempt (SB367) to provide a regulatory structure that would overcome both Hawaiian Electric (HECO) and the State of Hawaii’s inability to finance the $1 billion undersea cable to Lana’i and Moloka’i failed to pass the Legislature. This year’s version (SB2785) has the same cast of characters behind it — HECO, Governor Abercrombie, Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Consumer Advocate…..

What’s interesting to watch through this legislative session is how the proponents of SB2785 have shifted their arguments over time. Last year’s failed attempt with SB 367 was all about wind — and driven largely by Castle & Cooke’s desire to make big bucks through tax breaks and incentives, and enormous revenues (some estimates projected close to $150 million per year) to C&C’s private owner ….

What’s interesting to watch through this legislative session is how the proponents of SB2785 have shifted their arguments over time. Last year’s failed attempt with SB 367 was all about wind — and driven largely by Castle & Cooke’s desire to make big bucks through tax breaks and incentives, and enormous revenues (some estimates projected close to $150 million per year) to C&C’s private owner — a big Lingle supporter. (Note that this week, those tax breaks and incentives for wind energy developers were not continued by Congress.)

Then, as community opposition on both Moloka’i and Lana’i intensified and expanded, it became a way to serve those islands with broadband. Next, it was marketed as a two-way cable, able to provide Neighbor Islands with power from O’ahu. Later arguments positioned it as a way to provide “energy security” to the entire state — a seemingly bizarre argument when you consider what would happen to our state’s energy supply and “security” should there be a break in the cable like — with an earthquake or a tsunami — neither strangers to our shores.

read … Friends of Lanai

Not So Public: Recipients of Hawaii Film Tax Credits Under Wraps

CB: Hawaii taxpayers have paid out nearly $117 million worth of tax credits over the past five years to movie and television studios as an incentive for filming in the islands.

But, exactly who cashed in on these lucrative credits — and how much they got — is secret.

The program, which has been in place since 2006, offers a 15 percent rebate on production costs for filming on Oahu, and 20 percent for the neighbor islands. Eligible costs include things like wages for the cast and crew, equipment rentals, lodging, transportation, location fees and airfare. The credits are refundable, meaning if a company's credits exceed its tax liability, the state pays out the difference in cash up to an $8 million cap.

In exchange for that $117 million in credits, productions collectively generated $110 million in state tax revenues during the same five-year period, according to state officials.

CB: Hawaii Has No More Excuses For Not Improving Accountability

read … Secret Star Bucks

US Chamber Backs Lingle with $249K Vote of Confidence

SA: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $249,800 for production and media placement for television advertisements in Hawaii in February highlighting former Gov. Linda Lingle’s stance on tourism.

read … Vote of Confidence

Usual Crooks, Cronies Join Rep Takumi for Fundraiser

CB: It’s set for Monday evening (March 19) — Day 34 of the 2012 Hawaii Legislature….

Among those giving to Rep. Roy Takumi during 2011 were Ironworkers for Better Government, Hawaii Association of Realtors, the AFL-CIO’s Hawaii Committee on Political Education, ILWU Local 142, John Radcliffe and Red Morris, Ken Hiraki of Hawaiian Telcom, Kevin Kuroda and the UPW.

read … Same old same old

Criminal? Rep. Awana Still Tardy With Election Filings

CB: The 2010 primary election ended 16 months ago, but state House Rep. Karen Awana has still not filed three candidate reports for that election cycle with the state Campaign Spending Commission.

The filings are required by law and can be subject to penalties if filed late or improperly.

The commission has been trying to get Awana to file her three reports — they cover all but two months of 2010 — going so far as to fine her $1,900 last summer.

read … Criminal Awana?

Gaming Industry Mourns Failure of Internet Gaming in Hawaii, Looks to McKelvey for Salvation

As one of only two states without any type of gambling available to its citizenry, Hawaiian lawmakers actually proposed several bills in January to allow for the legalization of lotteries, land-based casinos and online poker and gambling. Each one of the measures will not be advancing, leaving Hawaii and Utah as the only states in America where gambling of any form is illegal.

However, all hope is not yet lost for the Aloha State. In early March, the introduction of proposals to research how a casino on the island of Waikiki would affect the region are being considered. Rep. Angus L.K. McKelvey, who supports online poker in Hawaii, recently mentioned to Card Player that the research is intended to study the ramifications of a land-based casino, but any legislation can be modified to include online poker and gambling also.

UK: Online Poker Bill Fails In Hawaii

read … McKelvey

HB2569: Churches Will not be Forced to Perform Gay Unions

CB: As currently drafted, however, the bill would allow religious organizations and groups affiliated with them to deny “services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges” that are “related to the solemnization of a civil union.”

Two Senate committees are scheduled to hear HB 2569 Tuesday morning (March 20).

read … Religious Freedom

ACLU: Abortion Trumps First Amendment

MN: House members opposed to HB 127 cited concerns about religious freedom. While every person has the right to religious freedom, no (Church-owned) hospital has the right to use uphold its religion to discriminate against patients who do not share its beliefs by denying them proper care abortion pills. Women should not have to fear that a hospital's religious affiliations will prevent them from receiving critical care abortion pills after an assault. Every hospital has an obligation to provide quality health care abortion pills.

read … ACLU

After Decades of Indolence, Water Board Finally Getting Around to Developing Downtown Acreage

CB: "This whole thing has gone back and forth for 25 years or so," he said….

Lau has already met with The Queen's Medical Center, which has long lusted after the property. The entire complex, about six acres, includes sea-foam green buildings fronting Beretania near the corner of Punchbowl Street and a large multi-tiered parking lot behind, near the hospital.

"I can't say that it will be Queen's that will help us look at development of this property, the underutilized property back here, but Queen's is very interested," Lau said. He reiterated that any RFP — Request For Proposals — must adhere to procurement law because the Board of Water Supply is a semi-autonomous agency attached to the city government….

Kobayashi said the parking area is under-used and would be a good spot for Queen's to expand. But that's not all.

"The office buildings don't have to be there. They could be in Kapolei or anywhere else," she said. "The Board of Water Supply owns a lot of land, and they should look at developing another property and leasing this out."

Kobayashi suggested that affordable housing rentals might make sense near downtown, and Lau said with a smile that even a high-rise hotel wouldn't be a problem if it brought in $100 million in lease revenue per year. "I think our water customers would be OK with that."

read … Water Board's Beretania Land To Be Developed

SA: Landfill pick will test our ability to Assign Blame While Avoiding Solutions

SA Editorial: Although the city is seeking a further extension of the life of the Waimanalo Gulch facility, a 2009 ruling by the state Land Use Commission set the closure date for July 31, only a few months from now.

The city is running up against some firm opposition to any extension, especially from Ko Olina Resort. While the LUC will allow HPOWER ash and residue at the existing landfill beyond the deadline, a permanent replacement eventually must be found to accommodate trash, so officials should bite the bullet and pick a location as soon as possible.

There is going to be a lot of work to do to prepare any site for responsible use, as last year's episode, in which runoff overflowed and carried medical waste from the landfill to the beach, demonstrated with appalling clarity.

In addition, there's no time to lose in getting the long-awaited third boiler in the HPOWER plant finished, reducing the need for large-capacity waste-management storage.

That said, it's clear that another site will be needed, because even HPOWER can't incinerate everything, even under normal circumstances, and in the event of problems, landfills are needed as a fallback.

The time is long overdue for the city to demonstrate the political will to move ahead with this decision, no matter how unpopular it proves to be. (And since Carlisle is gonna lose anyway, he is the perfect fall guy.)

read … Star-Adv

Lawsuit seeks to stop Kauai smart electric meter installations

KGI: A complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu by a Kaua‘i taro farmer seeks to stop the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative’s smart meter rollout.

“The defendant is rushing forward with the installation of so called ‘smart meters’ throughout the island of Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i, despite serious security and privacy concerns, some of which involve apparent constitutional and statutory violations,” states the complaint filed Friday by Adam Asquith against KIUC.

PBN: Lawsuit seeks to stop Kauai smart electric meter installations

read … Smart?

‘We got it done’: Maui Charter panel wraps up

MN: The Charter Commission supported a last-minute proposal Monday that would verbally acknowledge the importance of Native Hawaiians to the community.

The proposal will allow voters to decide whether to add language to the preamble of the Maui County Charter recognizing the county's "Hawaiian history, heritage, culture and uniqueness" and pledging to support the philosophy behind the state's motto, "ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono," translated as "the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness."

Members voted unanimously to advance the proposal at what was expected to be their last official meeting as a commission.

After meeting for the past 10 months, the commission has moved forward a total of 11 proposed amendments to the County Charter, to be placed on the General Election ballot in November for voters to decide….

Commissioners on Monday spent time debating the wording of the Native Hawaiian acknowledgment proposal, before voting unanimously to move it forward.

But Commissioner Yuki Lei Sugimura questioned why the proposal was coming at the last minute. She noted that the measure had not been presented to the public at the commission's numerous community meetings last year.

"I have the greatest love for the Hawaiian culture and people," she said. "But we're about to submit our final report and this comes out of left field."

read … Left Field

Timing Traffic Lights Cheaper than Rail

Fidell: Los Angeles has developed the Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control system to reduce congestion. It uses 18,000 sensors and 400 cameras to gather traffic data. It processes that data every second to re-time 4,000 signal light cycles and keep traffic moving. It is not only automated, it's adaptive.

As congestion builds, the system re-times the signals to stay green for congested lanes. It also builds a database of traffic patterns to adapt its analysis and avoid overreacting to a given jam. Driver travel times fall by 14 percent, and drivers make 20 to 30 percent fewer stops. This price of success is $150,000 per intersection.

In the last two years, Los Angeles has built 18 miles of bus-only lanes and 200 miles of bike lanes. When buses run late, the traffic signals stay green longer for them. When a bike approaches an intersection, sensors turn traffic signals to green.

Los Angeles developed the system software in-house and now licenses it to others. The city will sell a license for the complete "prediction and control" package for $75,000. That's a small fraction of what an outside consultant would cost.

Los Angeles has turned its congestion liability into an asset. We need to buy the system or do even better and code our own. Maybe Code for America can help. Whatever it costs, it'll be a whole lot less than $6 billion for rail.

Why sit at a light when there's no cross traffic? An app can sense this and turn the light green. Of course, you need code to factor in the peculiarities of the streets, the weather and the time of day, but with Hawaii ingenuity and an adaptive system, that app could get better and better all on its own.

The bottlenecks in Waikiki are unforgettable. Cars can't turn right because pedestrians are in the crosswalk. The light changes, and now pedestrians are in the other crosswalk. So the cars wait cycle after cycle, traffic stacking up. Add an app with a no-walk sign, and the bottleneck is gone for minimal cost.

read … Cheaper than Rail

Remnants of Washington Mutual Reincorporate in Hawaii

Seattle Times: Washington Mutual is now WMI Holdings Corp. No, this isn't a 2008 blog post that suddenly popped up four years later. The remains of old WaMu that weren't plucked by JPMorgan Chase completed its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization this week. According to Dow Jones Newswires, WMI "consists primarily of WM Mortgage Reinsurance Co., a legacy reinsurance business incorporated in Hawaii and funded by a $75 million contribution from some WMI creditors."

read … WaMu

Maritime Surveillance, Fuel Efficiency Top U.S. Pacific Command's Wish List

NDM: The weapons of war typically associated with U.S. Pacific Command are big-ticket military machines such as nuclear submarines, missile-guided destroyers and aircraft carriers.

But PACOM is also interested in less glamorous but increasingly needed resources in the areas of undersea surveillance, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and fuel efficiency, according to a briefing to industry delivered this week by Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Thomas L. Conant, deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Command.

Conant was the keynote speaker at the National Defense Industrial Association’s “Pacific Operational Science & Technology” conference in Honolulu, Hawaii.

According to Conant’s briefing charts, PACOM is looking for industry innovations in maritime security.
The hottest
new technology that the Navy is pushing in this area is undersea robots that can supplement or in some cases replace conventional submarines.

read … Maritime Surveillance, Fuel Efficiency Top U.S. Pacific Command's Wish List

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