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Wednesday, February 13, 2013
February 13, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:21 PM :: 1257 Views
 

UHERO: Solar Tax Credits Could Cost $1.4B

Grassroots Training for Hawaii Conservatives--Sign Up Here

Full Text: State of the Union Address

Full Text: Sen. Marco Rubio Response to State of the Union

Electric Rates Punish EVs

Green: Soda tax is ‘the right thing to do’

HTH: Nationally, that’s about $330 billion spent on diabetes, a figure that nears the U.S. military spending, Green added. Much of those costs in Hawaii are borne by taxpayers, via treatment through Medicaid programs such as Quest. More than half of Hawaii Island residents are enrolled in Quest, Green said.

“Can you imagine if that trend keeps up and doubles over the next 10 years?” Green asked Tuesday, the morning after SB 1085 passed out of the Senate Health Committee, which Green, a doctor, chairs. “We will crumble under the weight of our health problem.”

About 275,000 Hawaii residents are enrolled in Medicaid, and the state spent $1.7 billion on the program last year, Green said. Of that, hundreds of millions was spent treating illnesses such as diabetes.

The bill would impose a penny per ounce fee on sugary beverages — sports drinks, juice and soda — at the distributor level. Introduced at Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s request, the bill would direct the fee, estimated to top $30 million annually once the program is in full swing, to programs to prevent childhood obesity. Green said studies show drinking even one soda a day can increase a child’s chances of becoming overweight or obese.

HTH: Taxes are Good for you, Really

Star-Adv: $92M -- Cafeteria improvements long overdue

SA: Enough studies, already. The Department of Education must act against what the most recent audit calls the "unacceptable" lack of oversight, monitoring and accountability and correct what's needed to operate at a modern and efficient level.

The scathing report was handed to the Board of Education's Audit Committee last week, finding that the schools' food services section "is operating with conflicting, outdated and non-comprehensive policies and procedures." The system is partly plagued with "great inefficiencies" caused by an overlap of the food services and fiscal services branches in food purchasing and meal payment collection from students. The duplication is both confusing and expensive — and opens the door to impropriety or fraud.

The audit found that the department's food services branch is using a staffing formula accepted for use in 1964 — nearly a half-century ago — causing inflated staffing statewide with unneeded 27 full-time government employees and 35 part-timers. Also, the formula was based on staffing in September, by far the busiest month: 3,950 adult meals a day compared with a 2,220 average for all other months.

Those add up in megadollars, and Don Horner, the school board chairman, is right in saying an outside consultant might need to step in to help the department, "given the magnitude and the size of the problem." The school food services program costs $92 million a year

read … Cafeteria

Commercial Beach Ban Kills Non-Profit Events

KHON: "As of last year we've basically come to a halt with our ability to put that forth to the community," said Scott Harada, organizer of the Wahiawa Pineapple Festival.
The parks department says many events including the Haleiwa Arts Festival and elements of the lantern festival could be in jeopardy.
But many from Kailua testified that an exception for nonprofits could lead to exploitation of the loophole, if nonprofits enabled for-profit services to function under their permits.

SA: Ban on business at Kailua Beach imperils events at all city parks

read … Now You see it, Now you don’t 

 

Are Hawaii Lawmakers Protecting A Lobbyist From the Ethics Code? 

CB: Critics are taking aim at a bill moving through the Legislature that they say is an attempt to shield one member of the now-defunct Mortgage Foreclosure Task Force from state ethics laws.

Senate Bill 893 seeks to retroactively exempt task force members from a conflict-of-interest provision. Critics say the measure also potentially weakens the Ethics Commission's authority by creating a law that sidesteps an unpopular commission opinion.

“Accommodating such after-the-fact amendments would severely undermine the Commission’s ability to effectively administer the State Ethics Code and erode the public trust,” Ethics Executive Director Les Kondo said in his testimony….

In particular, the measure would affect Marvin Dang, who served as the task force's vice president while also lobbying the Legislature for the mortgage industry.

read … Exceptions

University Officials Find It Hard to Break Habit of Secrecy

ILind: The latest demonstration of “watch what they do, not what they say” came a few days ago when the Star-Advertiser reported on inventory control issues flagged by an internal audit of the UH facilities management office.

The audit was presented to and discussed at some length by the Board of Regents in a May 25, 2012 committee meeting, but the university refused to make it public until last week, about eight months later, the Star-Advertiser reported. The final version of the audit was essentially unchanged from the earlier “draft,” the newspaper noted.

Lynne Waters, Associate Vice President for External Affairs and University Relations, told the newspaper the draft report had not been released earlier because it needed proofreading and “other finishing touches” before it could be made public.

What a ridiculously lame excuse for secrecy. Waters and other UH officials seem to be casually thumbing their noses at the state’s public records law. The basic presumption is that government records are public: “All government records are open to public inspection unless access is restricted or closed by law.”

Related: Audit: UH Skips 'Annual' Employee Evaluations for 15 Years

read … Secrecy

Telescope: Sovereignty Activists Organize Circus, Demand Rent Money

HTH: As BLNR members prepared to get the testimony under way at 11 a.m., a large contingent of Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners made their way into the council chambers, wearing traditional Hawaiian clothing and maile, and chanting in unison, some holding their hands aloft in a triangle shape, invoking a symbol of the dominant feature at the center of Hawaii Island: Mauna Kea.

(Felon and ex-con) Abel Simeona Lui, a well-known Hawaiian activist (convicted of manslaughter, 1977) who was recently evicted from property at Kawa Bay that he and others claimed to be safeguarding for future generations of Native Hawaiians, entered the room bearing a video camera, which he proceeded to wave in front of BLNR board members and attendees of the hearing, saying that he was helping to reveal “the truth” about the proceedings to other Hawaii Island residents. After repeated requests for him to be seated, Lui finally acquiesced, but continued to pop up from time to time during the hearing to lecture or photograph the board.

Perhaps the most emotional testimony came from Mauna Kea Anaina Hou President Kealoha Pisciotta, who wept as she delivered the final presentation from a petitioner.

“In conclusion, when we began standing for Mauna Kea all those years ago, the kupunas told us that we must make sure to tell you all of the significance, because our kupunas believe that if you knew better, you would do better, and they certainly are right,” she said. “We all know our kupunas who have passed told us we must continue to stand in aloha and we do that here today. We extend our aloha to all of you. We know this is a hard decision and we pray that you will make the one we wish to hear. … The world is calling out and saying ‘No more.’ The earth is demanding that we stand, and now is the time.” (But for a cool $50M, she is willing to forget all that.)

KITV: Telescope challengers demand spiritual, natural preservation

read … Where were the mortgage scammers today?

Abandon Democracy to Fill Potholes?

Shapiro: The problem is the inherent politics in a democracy: the inability to look beyond short-term political pressures to long-term infrastructure needs, the temptation to divert funding to sexier projects, the prevalence of pork barrel prioritizing in which "you support my worthless project and I'll support yours."

The London group recommended freeing infrastructure decisions from shifting political winds by turning infrastructure management over to independent boards that would decide priorities, strategy and financing, subject to oversight by Parliament.

Locally, that would mean setting up agencies similar to the Hono­lulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to manage roads and other major infrastructure with a degree of separation from politics.

But after the tepid reception given HART and the outright hostility directed at the Public Land Development Corp., the question is whether a suspicious public would support handing so much power to an agency so far removed from political reach.

If we ever want our roads fixed, we might have to.

read … Abandon Democracy

Landlord may levy excise tax if bill is a business expense

SA: Question: I am renting from a landlord who has multiple tenants on a single Hawaiian Electric Co. service meter but who separates the electricity bills among the tenants. When doing so, he charges an additional general excise tax on each of us. When I had my own HECO account, no GET charges were noted. Is this correct?

Answer: The landlord can charge you the state’s general excise tax if he is personally liable for the overall electrical account as a business expense and pays excise tax on that amount to the state Department of Taxation.

HECO itself doesn’t pay the GET.

In lieu of that tax, HECO and other utilities pay a Public Service Company tax of 5.885 percent on revenues, said spokes­man Peter Rosegg.

“It is factored into our ‘cents per kilowatt-hour’ rates and not shown as a separate line item, as the GET is shown by many retail providers,” he said.

read … Taxes on Taxes

Pflueger’s financial problems cited in his tax evasion trial

SA: Retired car dealer James Henry Pflueger lied about how much in taxes he owed on the sale of a commercial property in San Diego because he needed the money for his legal expenses in the Ka Loko Dam disaster and other judgments, federal prosecutor Les Osborne said Tuesday in opening statements of Pflueger’s conspiracy and tax evasion trial.

Pflueger, 86, is on trial for conspiring to conceal from the IRS profits from the sale of the property and the payments his former company, Pflueger Inc., made to cover his personal expenses from 2003 through 2006. He is also on trial for filing false federal income tax returns.

The government last week dropped a charge accusing Pflueger of failing to report his holdings in a Swiss bank account.

read … Running down the clock

Student surveys can help evaluate teacher effectiveness

SA: As the student voice on Hawaii’s Board of Education, I understand that we are asking more of students than ever before, and we hope our teachers continue to strive to be highly effective instructors. The Tripod survey is just one of four parts of the Educator Effectiveness System (EES), which is now in its second year of being piloted at 81 schools.

Opponents of the student survey claim that lower-achieving students or ones who have it out for a teacher can skew results; however, Harvard University researchers designed the survey with safeguards against malicious responses. This survey is currently being used in 23 states and many school districts as part of new teacher evaluations. Research involving more than 3,000 teachers showed that the use of student surveys is the strongest predictor of effective teaching.

read … Student surveys can help evaluate teacher effectiveness

Don't let at-risk youth slip between the cracks

SA: In 2013, Hale Kipa will be expanding its focus on academic and vocational education with a specific independent living skills curriculum and career planning tools to assess more youth. Various forms of alternative education also are being evaluated, since most of the youth we work with are at tremendous risk for homelessness. Without the education, skills and training needed to get a good job, they are doomed to minimum-wage jobs or unemployment.

We must secure a place in society for the so-called "opportunity youth," the population of 16- to 24-year-olds who are neither in school nor employed. Depending on estimates used, 20 to 25 percent of Hawaii's youth are at risk of dropping out of school. For older youth, 28 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds and 14 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds are neither employed nor enrolled in school. When they fail in school or in the workplace, we all lose.

That's the key finding of a report by the Hawaii Community Foundation, entitled "Analysis of the Fiscal Resources Supporting At-Risk Youth, Ages 13-24, in Hawaii." The estimated cost, such as lost wages, for just one year of dropouts (2008) is $1.4 billion.

One way to keep youth moving forward is to offer competency-based education, which is based on competency and proficiency, not grade level. Essentially, when the students master the body of material that is necessary to move to the next body of material, they move on. When they finish mastering the requisite body of material that allows them to graduate, they do.

read … Hale Kipa

9-Year-Old Jessica Lunsford - Murdered By a Repeat Sex Offender - Inspires Lawmakers in Hawaii to Introduce Tougher Legislation

HR: John Evander Couey was a career criminal, arrested 24 times in a 30-year period for everything from burglary, carrying a concealed weapon, disorderly intoxication and driving under the influence, to indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, fraud, insufficient funds and larceny. The 46-year-old spent time in prison and had his driver’s license suspended for 99 years, but as his drug addiction to crack cocaine became more severe, Couey’s crime spree escalated into sexually assaulting two young children.

As a twice convicted sex offender, Couey was required to register his home address, but he went into hiding, moving into a trailer camp in Homosassa, Florida, just down the block from where 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford lived with her father, Mark Lunsford, and her grandparents.

At 3 a.m. on February 24, 2005, Couey broke into the Lunsfords’ home, kidnapped Jessica and took her to the trailer he shared with his half sister. Over the next three days as police, as Jessica's family and volunteers searched for her, Couey raped her repeatedly, fed her nothing and forced her to remain in a closet – the same closet he made her use as a bathroom. Police stepped up their search, and even looked in Couey’s trailer, but they missed the closet where Jessica was locked up. Afraid he'd be caught and returned to prison, Couey bound Jessica’s wrists, placed her in garbage bags, and buried her alive.

The horror Jessica experienced at the hands of a repeat sex offender changed many lives - and legislation. Lawmakers in 44 states were inspired to pass “Jessica’s Law” also known as the “Jessica Lunsford Act” - a variety of measures that stepped up penalties against sex offenders targeting children.

There are 6 states without a version of Jessica’s Law: Idaho, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Colorado and Hawaii. This year in New Jersey, Colorado and Hawaii, legislators introduced Jessica’s Law to mandate a 25-year minimum for first time sex offenders, impose stricter monitoring and require sex offenders to register their whereabouts.

read … Jessica’s Law

Bill Legalizing Marijuana in Hawaii Dead For Session

MN: A bill that would have allowed people 21 or older to possess up to one ounce of pot has died in the state House.

House Bill 150, which was introduced by House Speaker Joe Souki and also enjoyed the support of House Majority Leader Scott Saiki, died without so much as a hearing.

Karl Rhoads, chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, one of three committees to which the bill was referred, today said that he decided to kill the bill because it did not appear there was enough votes to move it out of the House.

The bill would have given the Department of Public Safety, the state agency in charge of prisons, the role of adopting rules for the licensing and operation of marijuana dispensaries. It would not have allowed private sales of marijuana.

SA: House committee shelves pot bill

read … Too Bad, So Sad

Hawaii Lawmakers Consider Tougher Penalties for Soliciting Child Prostitutes

HR: Two of the bills include:

SB192 "End Demand for Prostitution", which will be heard in a Senate committee on Friday, February 15, makes it a crime to solicit of a minor for prostitution, and increases the statute of limitations to bring a cause of action for coercion into prostitution from two to six years. The legislation also adds the offenses of solicitation of a minor for prostitution, habitual solicitation of prostitution, and solicitation of prostitution near schools and public parks under the State's forfeiture laws.

SB194 "Relating to Criminal Procedure," prevents those who solicit prostitutes to get the crime wiped clean from their record through a deferred acceptance plea. The bill will also get its first hearing on Friday.

HNN: Lawmakers want signs posted for trafficking victims

read … Child Prostitution

HB343: Bill clarifies gambling laws to cover 'sweepstakes' machines

KITV: Seventy-seven confiscated machines are now evidence in a six-month long gambling probe.

There were no arrests, but attorneys for the distributor sued over the seizure, maintaining the machines are perfectly legal.

Opponents argue the devices are no different from McDonald's Monopoly Games or Readers Digest Sweepstakes.

But is it black and white--gambling or not?

Because there is enough of a grey area, several lawmakers moved to try and remove any ambiguity.

"The Honolulu Police Department believes the laws are adequate and they are going to win the case which is in federal court, but as an abundance of caution we just want to tighten it up and that as what the bill did today," said Rep. Karl Rhoads.

The Judiciary committee chairman advanced a bill tightening up the definition of what constitutes a gambling device.

KITV: Gaming machines on the rise that lawmakers say is gambling

read … Sweepstakes 

 

HB533: Fly Homeless Back to Mainland

House Bill 533 would set up a return-to-home program to assist eligible homeless individuals return to their home state “if there is a support network available and the support network is able to receive them.”

read … One-Way Ticket 

 

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