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Sunday, April 29, 2012
Last Day for Legislation: Hospitals Medicare Fix, Early Release of Criminals, Gay Unions in Your Church, Tax Credits for Solar Scammers, and More
By Selected News Articles @ 3:24 PM :: 4415 Views :: Energy, Environment

47 Bills on Monday's Ageda: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/gethearing.aspx?hearingdate=4/30/2012

One to Go: Lawmakers Vote Up 46 Bills with only A Single Objection

CB April 30, 2012 10am: Only a single “no” vote was registered, from Republican Cynthia Thielen on House Bill 2404, which allows for government agencies to disseminate publications of notice electronically….

As the list of bills dwindled down, the crowd in Conference Room 309 dwindled down as well. A final vote for all bills that made it out of conference committee is set for Tuesday (May 1) and Thursday (May 3).

At 10 a.m., lawmakers took a short recess and plan to reconvene at 10:30 a.m. There is only one bill left — House Bill 304 on state finances for public health, welfare and education.

read … Hawaii Lawmakers Proclaim, ‘We Have a Bill’

HCEI-style Mandate for Local Ag Production: HB2703 Dead

Solar Scammers May Yet get Legislative Reprieve

SA: Lawmakers are expected to publicly release the eligible bills today.

Kalbert Young, the state's budget director, expressed concern that two bills the Abercrombie administration considers important to the state's finances might not make the cut. Lawmakers have not agreed to an extension of a rental-car surcharge that budget analysts believe could help keep the budget in balance over the next several years. Lawmakers have also not committed to immediately replenishing the state's hurricane relief and rainy-day funds, which were tapped to help close budget deficits….

Lawmakers also appear unlikely to extend or expand a film tax credit that many had hoped would encourage more movie and television productions in the islands and help with job creation. Ige, the lead Senate budget negotiator, listed an enhanced film tax credit as a Senate priority as late as Friday.

Several lawmakers are optimistic that a reconfigured solar tax credit may still advance. A draft compromise, which has won the support of the solar industry and environmental advocates, would address some of the concerns by the state that the tax incentive has grown too costly.

Lawmakers are also hopeful about a bill that would provide more than $1 million to help with ambulance service on the Leeward coast in response to the bankruptcy and closure of Hawaii Medical Center-West in Ewa Beach.

The bills that are saved by Monday's new deadline would be scheduled for final votes by Thursday, the last day of the session.

What the Legislature is Responding to: Why Stop at $500K? DoTAX Quietly Multiplies Hawaii Solar Tax Credit

read … Solar Scammers Hopeful

Monday is Deadline for Bill to Release 1,195 Criminals on Streets of Hawaii

KHON: House Speaker Calvin Say and Senate President Shan Tsutsui also extended the deadline from Friday to Monday for bills to be heard.

Finance committee Chair Oshiro says more than three dozen bills will likely be heard….

But with only $50 million to spend on the bills that are left, not everything will get the funds they need.

The Governor's staff is watching closely to make sure bills like justice reinvestment, watershed and early childhood initiatives make it through and don't fall by the wayside.

"We just hope in this next day and half something doesn't automatically happen and something starts unraveling," said Governor's Deputy Chief of Staff Blake Oshiro.

Some bills in education have already seen that reality, with funding cuts for school bus transportation and adult education at schools.

Reality: Marumoto: Plan to Release 1,195 Criminals is 'Kapakahi'

read … Day and a Half to unravel $50M

DHS Grabs 12% of Nursing Home ‘Provider Fees’, Hospitals Soaked for 7%

SA: House and Senate negotiators reached agreement on a bill that would impose a provider fee on private hospitals and large nursing homes, allowing the state to draw millions in additional federal money to help cover the health care costs of the poor. Hospitals would pay about $42 million and get $77 million in payments in return. Nursing homes would pay about $11.5 million and get $21 million in return. The state would also lift a 3 percent cut in reimbursement payments to nursing homes, which would provide an additional $6 million.

The state Department of Human Services would take 7 percent of the provider fee on hospitals — or $2.8 million — and 12 percent on nursing homes — or about $1.3 million. Department officials had wanted a greater share of the provider fee on hospitals, but lawmakers sided with the hospitals.

"The hospital sustainability bill is a major victory in the effort to strengthen our hospitals and provide better care to the people of Hawaii, at the same time sending additional funds to the Department of Human Services without any additional cost to Hawaii's taxpayers," state Sen. Josh Green (D, Milo­lii-Wai­mea), an emergency room doctor, said in an email. "The governor should sign this bill into law as quickly as possible so that our hospitals can receive federal funds that will improve patient care and access statewide."

Negotiators also agreed on a bill that would authorize Hawaii Health Systems Corp. to acquire the bankrupt and shuttered Hawaii Medical Center-East in Li­liha.

Related: DHS Money Grab Threatens Hawaii Hospitals, Nursing Homes

read … DHS Money Grab

Pork: The House wanted $300M, the Senate wanted $500M so they compromised on $825M

CB: A marathon session at the Capitol that began Friday morning, ended in the wee hours of Saturday with Hawaii lawmakers finally ending a budget stalemate and unanimously agreeing to pump $825 million worth of bond-financed capital improvement projects into the economy next year.

Legislators had already agreed on an $11.2 billion operating budget, but the CIP portion held up passage of the supplemental budget for the current year that ends June 30.

House Bill 2012 passed out of conference committee at 3 a.m. It heads for a floor vote next week….

Specifics on the CIP portion of the budget weren't immediately available online. Lawmakers added in close to $430 million in general obligation bonds for projects in fiscal 2013, resulting in the $825 million total. Earlier in the day, House and Senate lawmakers were pushing two very different plans.

The House preferred a CIP budget closer to the $300 million Gov. Neil Abercrombie had proposed, while the Senate has been pushing for an additional half-billion dollars in general-obligation-bond financing for repair and maintenance projects.

You can get a sense of the operations spending from budget worksheets online, which outline the agreements and disagreements that existed as the House and Senate headed into conference committee. The general fund portion of the $11.2 billion operating budget totals a little over $5 billion….

The crowd included Abercrombie cabinet members, lobbyists, journalists and other types of criminals—truly a celebration of ‘diversity’…. close to 50 people — mostly state department and division heads — were still in the audience as the clock approached 3 a.m….

Borreca: At the End, Abercrombie gets up close, personal with Legislature

PR: HB2012 – Deadline Day

read … More Debt to Line Cronies Pockets

Senate Approves Bill Exempting State Projects from Environmental Regs, Approves Amended Hospital Deals

SA: The Senate, meanwhile, gave final approval Friday night to a bill that would exempt 11 bridge rehabilitation proj­ects from a host of environmental and land-use regulations. The exemptions, which are valid for the proj­ects through June 2017, are intended to expedite repairs at bridges that are functionally obsolete or structurally deficient.

The Sierra Club Hawaii chapter has warned of legal challenges to the bill if it becomes law, which could delay construction on all of the bridges identified. Environmentalists have said the regulatory exemptions could threaten protections for streams and native culture.

Sen. J. Kalani English (D, East Maui-Lanai-Molokai) said the regulatory exemptions are temporary and meant to reduce layers of bureaucracy.

"This body, before me, created the environmental laws. So this body also has the right to change it, alter it, move it," said English, an advocate for the Hana Highway bridge preservation plan on Maui, which is among the proj­ects on the list.

read … Corporatism

Civil Unions Mandate Passes, Deadline Extended Until Monday

CB: Just before midnight, House Speaker Calvin Say and Senate President Shan Tsutsui announced an agreement to extend that deadline until Monday morning, allowing deliberations to continue over the weekend for certain fiscal measures….

Some of the qualifying measures could include Senate Bill 2784, which would replenish unspecified amounts into the state's Hurricane Relief and Rainy Day reserves; SB 490, which would expand visa programs to attract more international visitors; and HB 2476, which would authorize $7.7 million in settlements against the state.

Some measures, those without a money component, cleared the Friday deadline.

For example, fixes to the state's civil unions law, including granting of a narrow religious exemption for some groups, managed to squeak by and now awaits full House and Senate votes early next week.

Another measure calling for regulatory exemptions for transit-oriented development passed.

read … More Debt to Line Cronies Pockets

Bill Grandfathers Pension Spiking Rights for All Existing Employees

SA: Focusing on mushrooming retirement costs for the state, legislators Friday advanced a measure that would eliminate overtime in calculating pensions for new state and county employees starting July 1.

Senate and House negotiators embraced that approach rather than a higher-profile one that would have placed a cap on the amount of overtime used in pension calculations for new and current workers.

The latter approach was designed to address a practice called pension spiking and would have excluded from calculations any increase in nonbase pay exceeding roughly 20 percent over a worker's final 10 years of employment.

Taking overtime out of the calculation for new employees could have a dramatic long-term effect on the state Employees' Retirement System, which is facing an unfunded liability of more than $8 billion.

Such a step potentially could reduce pension liabilities by hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars over the next several decades, according to ERS Administrator Wes Machida.

To help curtail excessive overtime, lawmakers Friday also advanced a measure that requires state and county employers to cover costs to the pension system for current workers who exceed the 20 percent spiking threshold upon retirement.

The extra costs will serve as an incentive to employers to better manage overtime for their workers, said Sen. Clayton Hee, (or just raise taxes more) lead Senate negotiator on the two pension bills that advanced.

House and Senate negotiators passed Senate Bill 1269 and House Bill 2487 with no objections

read … Pension Spiking to End one Day?

Last Ditch Effort for Movie Moguls to Score Megabucks from $500M Senate ‘Accelerator’ Plan?

CB: The conference committee on House Bill 2012 recessed for an eighth time this morning. Lawmakers will reconvene at 4:30 p.m.

While conferees have agreed on the operating portion of the budget — at about $11 billion — they’ve reached an impasse on the capital improvements side of the budget.

Senate Ways and Means Chair David Ige on Friday morning expanded on five investments the Senate wants to see included in the budget, calling the proposal a $500 million “economic accelerator package.”

“We’ve been working on a number of things, and we do believe that it should contain five components,” Ige said.

“The first really is about advancing R and M (repair and maintenance) to really create jobs immediately.

“The second focus is really on diversification and enhancing film and digital media credits, looking to really enhance the state’s visitor marketing through film and digital media.

“The third point really is strategic investments in our core visitor industry by expanding opportunities for international visitors as well as maximizing the synergy between tourism and film.

“And the fourth piece of it really is enhancing and accelerating the partnership (with) the car rental industry by really appropriating revenue bonds so we can accelerate that project.

“Five hundred million so we can initiate those projects as soon as possible.

“And then the fifth and most important point is really investment in our social infrastructure by providing needed funds for nonprofits and other safety net services.

DN: Hawaii’s state government is built on rapidly eroding trust 

read … Tax the poor and send the Money to Democrat Movie Moguls in Hollywood

ILind: Rep. Choy credited with blocking expanded film industry tax credits

ILind: Manoa Representative Isaac Choy gets credit for shooting down HB 2869, the bill to expand available tax credits to the film industry.

The conference committee convened at 9 a.m. yesterday, then soon recessed until 1 p.m. as industry lobbyists pushed to maximize benefits for the film companies and their investors beyond current limits.

Choy, co-chair of the House conferees on the bill, reportedly agreed to extend the existing film credits, but the offer was rejected as the Senate conferees, led by Sen. Fukunaga, pushed for a bigger payoff for the industry, and sought support for a proposed conference draft. Choy refused, and the bill appeared to be dead.

But it got a reprieve when the final decking deadline with pushed out, giving time for more behind the scenes maneuvering by lobbyists and pro-industry legislators….

In an email, Representative Isaac Choy’s campaign chairman questioned why the Hawaii Venture Capital Association made an endorsement in just one legislative race.

The only House or Senate race at the State Legislature was for Kimberly Case against Rep. Isaac Choy. Isn’t it odd that the proponents of the 221 tax credit go after the one state legislator who they see as the roadblock to their cash flow? Forget the Gov’s race, these greedy folks want to suck another $100 million a year from the state for the next ten years, again.

read … Rep. Choy credited with blocking expanded film industry tax credits

Hawaii Budget Bills Getting ‘Final Touches’

CB: The three measures are:

  • House Bill 2012, the state operating and capital improvements budget
  • House Bill 1800, the Judiciary operating and CIP budget
  • House Bill 1838, a technical measure to authorize the state to issue the general obligation bonds called for the CIP budget

read … Hawaii Budget Bills Getting ‘Final Touches’

JRI: 50% Will Offend Again, so We Must Let these Criminals Out Now

HNN: We asked for your comments on our Facebook page and heard back from folks who had loved ones behind bars in Arizona, others who sympathized with family members, and others who thought, "Well, they did the crime. Now do the time".

Gina tears up when she hears the last comments, "A lot of times, our inmates are in prison for a reason that they were helping their families." She says many just don't know their situation and hopes people will be less judgmental.

"I take it to heart that, yeah, you did your crime. Do your time. Now forgive them. Get them back into the community. Give them the support that they need. Give them some kind of self-worth."

Hawaii has a 50% recidivism - repeat offender – rate, and everyone we talked to, whether it was family members, lawmakers, prosecutors, say some form of rehabilitation must be mandatory. Otherwise, they'll likely do it again. (Yup. They are likely to reoffend, so let them out early.)

read … Who Could be Fooled by this?

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