Report: Am Samoa Governor Prepares to Replace Faleomavaega
Will Minimum Wage Legislation Wreck American Samoa Economy Again?
Congress Back in Session: Faleomavaega a No Show
Finley Boyle Tragedy Exposes Danger of Primary Care Dentists Operating as Pediatric Dental Specialists
City: Bridge Financing Can Save Housing Deal
Not so nifty: Taxpayers chip in on gift for first lady, who turns 50
A New Year and New Scholars at Grassroot Institute
HIRA: 2014 Will be a Banner Year
DoH to Take Oversight of Home and Community-Based Facilities?
Worldwide Shipping Monopoly? Hawaii, Alaska, Territories Concerned by P3
DCCA Releases Insurance Comparisons for Homes, Vehicles
Abercrombie Pushing More Military Training as Other States Grab for Hawaii's Pork
SA: A new airstrip at Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island, a return to live-fire training at Makua Valley on Oahu, a stronger state-military-business partnership, and military “liaisons” in Hawaii and Washington, D.C., are being pursued as the state seeks to maintain $8.8 billion in annual military expenditures amid defense budget cuts....
Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, which holds the military update conference each year, laid out plans to maintain Hawaii’s military clout — and paychecks.
The death of powerful U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye in late 2012 was noted more than once, and it was his former chief of staff, Jennifer Sabas, who detailed an initiative to establish new committees within the chamber’s expanded military affairs council....
One new committee will focus on the shipyard, the state’s largest industrial employer, “to ensure that our shipyard continues to make the strides to get ships out on time and on budget,” Sabas said.
Another committee will take on training range and “encroachment” issues — a term used for civilian conflicts with military bases.
Abercrombie said his administration already is looking at ways to make the 132,000-acre Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island a “premier” training site in the Pacific.
The state, through the Hawaii National Guard, can work with the active-duty military to provide capital improvements like a needed airstrip at Pohakuloa, he said.
Abercrombie also said the state could provide land and help develop public-private housing initiatives for additional troops to minimize Pentagon investment.
Some 2,700 Marines from Okinawa are expected to be moved to Hawaii by 2026, and the military is studying places to house them.
Additionally, Abercrombie said he’ll seek $525,000 in state funding for “liaisons” in Hawaii and Washington, D.C., “to protect and enhance and advance the military presence in Hawaii.”
David Bramlett, a retired four-star Army general, said at the military update that Schofield Barracks has “ambitious” plans to reopen Makua Military Reservation to increased training.
KGI: Kauai Drone Deal not a Done Deal
Background: Hawaii Perspectives Survey Shows Strong Support for Military Presence
read ... Military Training
Just in Time for the Budget: Economic slowdown leads to downgrade in revenue forecast
SA: The council voted 4-3 this afternoon to reduce the projection to 3.3 percent revenue growth in fiscal year 2014, down from 4.1 percent in September, an estimated $43 million loss to the state. The divided vote was because some economists on the council believed the forecast should have been even lower because of the slowdown in the rate of economic growth.
The council kept the projection of 7.4 percent revenue growth for fiscal year 2015, which starts in July.
State lawmakers and Gov. Neil Abercrombie use the council's forecasts as guides when drafting the state budget. State House and Senate leaders have said they intend to take a cautious approach to Abercrombie's requests for new state spending....
Sen. David Ige (D, Pearl Harbor-Pearl City-Aiea), chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the estimated $43 million loss from the council's lower revenue projection is actually bigger than it appears because it lowers the base budget, compounding over the state's six-year financial plan.
"It does seem like the growth in the economy is tapering, so I did think that the council's projections were too optimistic," Ige said of the September forecast. "So I think (the new forecast) is in line with what my sense is."
Response: Abercrombie: Less Revenue--What, Me Worry?
read ... Reining Neil In
Harimoto announces state senate run for Ige's Seat
KHON: Councilmember Breene Harimoto on Wednesday announced his candidacy for the Hawaii State Senate. He will seek the State Senate District 16 seat (Pearl City – Aiea – Halawa – Pearl Harbor) that will be vacated by Senator David Ige, who is running for Governor. Harimoto will run as a Democrat.
Harimoto is currently serving his first term on the Honolulu City Council District 8....
CB: Brandon Elefante declares candidacy for District 8 seat
read ... Harimoto
Atheist Trash Latch on to Mililani abuse case
HNN: Those charges come after a recent ruling by Administrative Law Judge Haunani Alm found that the school principal Corrine Yogi dismissed allegations of physical and emotional abuse after conducting just a cursory investigation.
Alm went also said that Yogi brought in members from her church into the classroom to pray about the matter (which they claim was) so the controversy would go away.
"(Yogi) said there was evil in the classroom and that's why (she) found it necessary to bring her church into the classroom to somewhat pray about the matter to cleanse the environment," said attorney Eric Seitz (See how he attached a motivation for the prayers?), who is suing the DOE on behalf of three of the children and has taken Yogi's deposition.
"That's simply outrageous." ...
"You don't need to be Sherlock Holmes or a Police Academy graduate to figure out that you don't just ask the perpetrators if they did it," said Louis Erteschik, executive director of the Hawaii Disability Rights Center.
ILind: Separation of Church and State an issue at school where abuse occurred (In case you didn't get the message.)
Ignore This: Hawaii Blind-Deaf School Homosexual Rape Gang Case
read ... Another Day in the DoE
Senate committee to use subpoena powers to probe hospital conditions
KITV: Health officials laid out the challenges of a growing, and more violent and psychotic population of patients.
Lawmakers also grilled them about short-staffing and training programs.
But there are new claims of nepotism and promotion of untrained staff, as well as letters written by workers who shared their concerns because they are too afraid to speak publically.
Others said they fear retaliation from mid-level bosses.
"I did my job, but I got reprimanded and I got moved off my unit," said psychiatric technician Kalford Keanu Jr.
"There are so many people who are silently suffering because they failed to reach out or who are suffering because they are being threatened. So I think there should be some screening mechanism for those who are suffering," said Miscovitch.
"This thing is a can of worms that is going to be very difficult to unravel. It is multifaceted. Everything is in writing and that's why I think a subpoena is necessary," said Sen. Clayton Hee.
There is also a growing concern about a disconnect with how violent patients are treated in prison and at the hospital. They are in shackles and under heavy security one day, and then let loose at the hospital with little for hospital staff to protect themselves against violent outbursts.
“I think the discussion we are going to have is to the treatment of these patients and the laws that govern the two departments,” said Public Safety Director Ted Sakai....
"Whether or not we have to build a forensic hospital to both... to put the people who are the greatest threat to society in there, while we protect some of these workers," said Sen. Josh Green.
SA: Panel will look at working conditions in light of assaults and alleged retaliation
HNN: Senator: 'hostile work environment' at state hospital
Read ... Subpoena
Agency That Oversees Prisons Holds Open Vacant Positions
CB: Ige had other concerns. The Department of Public Safety has several hundred existing vacancies. Why should the Legislature allow the agency to create more positions if it can't fill the ones it has now?
read ... Slush Fund to Pay for Operations, Overtime
Legislature Will Have Opportunity to Toughen Sex-Trafficking Laws
SA: A major milestone was reached last year with the passage of a bill, now enshrined in law as Act 246, that specifically includes underage victims of sex and labor trafficking within the scope of the Child Protective Act and other laws related to child abuse.
That law gives these exploited minors access to Department of Human Services case workers and all of the accompanying services, such as housing, therapy and other rehabilitative outreach previously reserved for victims of domestic abuse....
The recent grand jury indictments of two men accused of pimping two underage Oahu girls highlights another recent advancement in the legal system surrounding child-sex trafficking: If convicted of all the prostitution charges they face, the men could get life in prison, thanks to penalties toughened in 2011.
This welcome trend toward tougher sanctions for pimps and johns and more help for prostitutes, especially those who are minors, will continue in the upcoming legislative session, with the expected introduction of three bills co-authored by Reps. John Mizuno, Mele Carroll, Karen Awana and Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland.
Among the measures' goals:
- To impose heavy fines on convicted pimps and johns and put the money in a special fund to help prostitutes, considered victims of human trafficking.
- To limit advertising for services associated with prostitution, such as massage parlors.
- To eliminate the option of a deferred acceptance of guilty plea for adult pimps convicted of trafficking minors. This plea allows defendants to expunge their records if they meet the court's requirement to stay out of trouble for a set period.
read ... Toughen child sex-trafficking laws
State investigating dentist whose patient died
SA: Her mother, a registered nurse, said she was shocked when Geyer told her after an initial visit that her daughter had 10 cavities and needed four pulpectomies, also known as "baby root canals." But she said she trusted the dentist's professional judgment.
A later examination by another dentist that was conducted while the girl was comatose showed only a few cavities, according to Fried.
"The problem with the X-rays that Dr. Geyer did is that they were of such poor quality that the dentist I had review them said they were essentially nondiagnostic," Fried told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Tuesday.
"There were not 10 cavities," Fried said. "Probably two teeth needed work, as best as we can tell preliminarily."
read ... Dentist
$790/mo: Higher Electric Bills May Force Navy Sailors into Street
HNN: When Christian Sams and his sister, Amanda, got their recent electricity bill, they were hit with sticker shock.
"Before they raised it it was about $350 a month. Now we're paying about $790 a month," Christian Sams said. (790/350=2.25)
The Sams said the sharp increase took them by surprise because they're frugal with electricity use....
The Sams family rents a three-bedroom home at the Waterfront at Puuloa. The subdivision sits on Navy land. The housing belongs to mainland company Carmel Partners.
"For me to hear that the rates have increased dramatically is a little bit of a surprise," regional manager Suzette Smith said.
She said electricity rates have gone up because the Navy raised them 130 percent, but Carmel absorbed much of the increase and did not pass it on to tenants.
"What Carmel has done is capped a recent rate increase that the Navy imposed on all of their customers at the current HECO rate," she said.
The Navy's old charge was 28 cents per kilowatt hour. To recoup losses the Navy incurred in previous years the rate was increased to about 63 cents. Smith said Carmel is charging residents only 35 cents per kilowatt hour and paying the rest. (.63/.28=2.25)
Amanda Sams said most of the family's savings were tapped to pay the higher electricity cost, but they're falling behind and they've gotten eviction notices.
"We're looking at possibly being out on the street," she said.
Background: 49% Waste: Inspector General Slams Hawaii Navy Solar Projects
read ... Ewa Beach residents complain of high electric bills
Rate Hikes Coming as Blue Planet Outlines Proposals to Pour Even More Money into Independent Power Producers Pockets
PBN: The Blue Planet Foundation supports legislation to mandate Hawaii receive 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050.
The state’s current goal, established in 2009, requires that 40 percent of electricity sales come from renewable sources by 2030, along with 30 percent coming from efficiency measures, for a total of 70 percent.
The governor has said that he hopes to set even higher standards....
Blue Planet Foundation also pointed out that it is advocating for a program called community renewable energy in which would allow households to benefit from renewable energy installed on any roof, anywhere on the grid.
Other legislation Blue Planet would like to see includes regulations to implement Senate Bill 120, which authorizes the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to establish a new methodology to differentiate utility economic returns for “investments to modernize the electric grid that should be encouraged, and investments to preserve old, inefficient fossil generation, which should be discouraged.”
Additionally, Blue Planet is advocating for legislation to limit uncertainty about wasted energy that will hopefully mean cheaper energy for ratepayers, as well as to create an investment tax credit, production tax credit and portfolio standard for smart energy storage. (Translation: Pay wind farms for useless electricity and waste more money on batteries.)
Blue Planet would also like to see legislation that supports the use of locally recycled fuels as a substitute for imported diesel fuel and regulations to implement Act 234 and reduce Hawaii’s greenhouse gas emissions.
IM: “We are bullish on geothermal,” Mikulina says.
read ... Rate Hikes
Hawaii Health Connector Signs Up Less than 1% of Business Goal
PBN: So far, enrollment grew from a low of 257 on Nov. 15 to 2,034 individual enrollees as of Dec. 25. Nearly 300 business had applied for a health plan through the Hawaii Health Connector as of Dec. 25 as well. Early benchmarks say that the Hawaii Health Connector should have around 10,000 individuals enrolled and 40,000 small businesses enrolled in the current fiscal year.
“Those are historical assumptions established before I started, and so I still have to look deeper into our budget to understand revenue projections, and I also think we’re dealing with changing circumstances. So I need to evaluate whether or not those assumptions are still good,” he said.
Matsuda has also launched new efforts internally to begin measuring effectiveness of outreach efforts, which will allow the organization to pinpoint what works and what doesn’t work when educating the community.
By the end of 2014, he defines success by seeing improved enrollment numbers, an IT system working well and a positive consumer experience.
read ... Meet the 1%
Kauai County bill would require lobbyist registration, financial disclosure
KGI: Other local governments, including Maui and Hawaii Counties as well as the City and County of Honolulu, have lobbying laws that require lobbyists to register with respective county or state offices but no such law exists on Kauai County’s books.
Having this measure on Kauai, Furfaro explained, would allow the county to see who is hiring the lobbyists appearing before them and ensure they have been certified. Bill 2497 would require lobbyists to register with the county Board of Ethics and identify themselves as lobbyists before testifying before the County Council or any county agency.
Although the bill was introduced to the council on Aug. 28, it has been deferred three times by the Committee of the Whole.
A lobbyist, according to a draft version of the bill, is defined as any individual who is paid to engage or is engaged in lobbying or lobbying activities for more than five hours in any month or spends more than $750 in six months.
Under the current bill, a person who also accepts membership dues, contributions, fees or salaries and devotes a portion of the funds or work time to lobbying activities will be considered to be engaged in lobbying activities.
Bill 2497 will be considered by the Committee of the Whole during the county council’s public meeting beginning at 9 a.m. in the Historic County Building’s Council Chambers.
read ... Lobbyists
TheBus Renews Push for Advertising
SA: The mayor and I met with the executive director and president of The Outdoor Circle before Bill 69 was filed and informed them the mayor continues to strongly oppose billboards. We also informed them that the city was not seeking to advertise at bus shelters, on bus benches, in bus transit centers, on TheHandi-Vans or use bus wraps (multisided advertisements).
The proposed bill is also specific to "bus" transit and would not apply to rail.
To that end, we will be introducing an amendment to Bill 69 clarifying our proposal at the first committee hearing.
Some $8 million a year may not seem like much to The Outdoor Circle and the Star-Advertiser, but to transit riders relying upon TheBus as their lifeline to opportunity, it is everything.
read ... TheBus
Report reveals meth use rises
KHON: According to the Diagnostic Laboratory Services, meth use went up 30 percent from the last quarter but compared to last year, it was fairly flat.
Marijuana use was up 10 percent from last quarter but dropped 7 percent from last year.
Coke and opiate use remained the same.
The most dramatic change was the use of synthetic urine which dropped by 30 percent from last year.
HR: In Hawaii, Meth, Marijuana Use on the Rise
SA: Isle workers' samples show substance use is down or about the same, DLS reports
read ... Meth
Regulating Smokeless Electronic Cigarettes
IM: In 2013 Hawaii passed Act 227 making it illegal to sell “an electronic smoking device to a minor under eighteen years of age.” (HRS §709-908)
The Hawaii Department of Education classifies an electronic cigarette as a contraband item (Class D offense).
In December 2013 the Hawaii Department of Health announced that it is banning the use of e-cigarettes at all DOH facilities. The policy will apply to all DOH employees, visitors, volunteers, contract workers and delivery personnel.
State Law (per HRS 328J-15) permits counties to enact stricter smoking laws.
On November 20, 2013 Big Island Billy Kenoi signed a law to regulate e-cigarettes. West Hawai‘i Councilmember Dru Mamo Kanuha wrote the bill which rose to the legal age to 21 for sale of all tobacco products. Bill 135 passed the Big Island County Council on November 20 by a vote of nine to zero. The bill was backed by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Coalition For A Tobacco-Free Hawai‘i (CTFH).
read ... Regulating Smokeless Electronic Cigarettes
Oprah Neighbors Pissed Over Obama Security
TMZ: The owner of nearby Goble's Flower Farm tells us ... security checkpoints have been set up on the roads ... blocking customers from shopping there.
Other business owners complain they can't stock their shelves because road closures have screwed up their deliveries.
A worker at Grandma's Maui Coffee tells us, employees are arriving VERY late to work.
And fun is also affected. Recreational areas (like hiking trails) have also been shut down.
Not good for Oprah's relations with her neighbors, which have already been strained from her generally imposing presence.
Read ... Bow Before Your Enlightened, Conscious, and Progressive Ruler, and Michelle too