Services Planned for Taxpayer Advocate Lowell Kalapa
$33,000 Per Person: Hawaii State Debt #2 in Nation
New IRS Rule Could Cut Into Restaurant Workers' Tips
Hawaii Supreme Court Clarifies "Final, Appealable Order" And Forgay Doctrine
Sovereignty Mortgage Scam Lands OHA Trustee in Court
SA: Several years after he stopped making his mortgage payments, Kale Gumapac was evicted from his foreclosed Hawaii island home.
Days before Thanksgiving, sheriff's deputies escorted a handcuffed Gumapac — he was arrested on a trespassing charge — from the Hawaiian Paradise Park property he had called home for more than a decade.
Gumapac said he stopped making his $3,000-a-month payments about five years ago...
He argued that Hawaii courts are unlawfully constituted, dating from the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. He also maintained that Hawaii land titles have been defective since the overthrow.
Like dozens of other Hawaii residents, Gumapac made those arguments based on the claim — repeatedly rejected by state and federal judges — that the Hawaiian kingdom still exists and the U.S. is illegally occupying the islands.
Gumapac even has a company that helps homeowners make the same kingdom argument to file defective-title claims....
Yet more homeowners appear to be adopting the legal strategy, according to attorneys and others who deal with such matters.
One recent case involved Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Dan Ahuna, who in a May court filing asked a state judge to dismiss his lender's foreclosure lawsuit. Ahuna argued that the state court lacked jurisdiction because the kingdom still exists.
In September the court rejected Ahuna's argument. Since then he and his wife have had their loan modified through the U.S. government's foreclosure prevention program, according to Ahuna, who said financial difficulties, not personal beliefs, prevented them from making their mortgage payments when the 2008 foreclosure complaint was filed.
"I simply underestimated the scale and complexity of using this particular legal argument to improve my ability to avoid foreclosure," Ahuna said in a written response to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, emphasizing that he was speaking as an individual and not as an OHA trustee.
Dexter Kaiama, a Kailua lawyer, says that over the past three years he has taken on more than 150 clients whose underlying defense questions the validity of local courts. The majority of those clients, including Gumapac, were homeowners already in the midst of foreclosure proceedings, according to Kaiama.
Gumapac, whose Big Island company is called Laulima Title Search and Claims, said he continues to get new clients even since his November eviction. Laulima now has about 300 total clients, and Gumapac charges $3,900 for his services, he said.
As Explained: Sovereignty Mortgage Scammer Keanu Sai at it again with help from Legislators, Maui Council, University
read ... Keanu Sai, Criminal
Civil Beat lawyer: Pono Choices is a Public Document
CB: Hawaii Rep. Bob McDermott has at least one good point. State education officials should have turned over a copy of Hawaii's controversial sex education program as soon as he asked for it.
McDermott was livid when the Hawaii Department of Education told him he would have to sit through an orientation of Pono Choices before a full copy of the sex-ed program teacher's manual would be shared with him.
There is nothing in the state’s public records law, the Uniform Information Practices Act, that says documents shall only be released to the public after people take a lesson in them.
It wasn't just the Hawaii lawmaker who was frustrated in his efforts to review the complete version of Pono Choices.Civil Beat reporter Chad Blair was also told by the DOE that he had to sit with staff from the University of Hawaii's Center on Disability Studies.
The center developed the program with funding from the federal Office of Adolescent Health. Blair reviewed the materials — a teacher's manual, a student workbook and a digital presentation — at the center's office. And while he was permitted to quote from them, he was not allowed to make copies or borrow the documents.
Brian Black of the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest sent a letter to DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi asking for an explanation.
read ... Public Document
Bhagowalia: Hawaii Health Connector 'Business Model Will not Survive'
WND: The Hawaii health-insurance exchange created in response to Obamacare has spent $100 million it received from Washington to fund 6,615 applicants – some of whom are still not even insured yet.
That represents $15,117 per applicant.
The state exchange has another $100 million to implement the program before depleting its grant from U.S. taxpayers, at which point the program is supposed to be self-sustaining through fees on local insurance companies.
Hawaii officials no longer see that as a possibility and are considering making the non-profit Hawaii Health Connector into a state agency subsidized by state taxpayers.
The model Hawaii officials had planned on was a minimum of 100,000 residents signing up for the program, that figure based on the number of uninsured. The 6,615 number includes small businesses and individuals. Most of those applicants have still not completed the paperwork to buy insurance. The applicants represent less than 1 percent of Hawaii’s 1.4 million residents.
“It’s not a good outlook for us,” said Sanjeev Bhagowalia, the state’s IT director. “The business model will not survive.”
read .. Failure
Sunshine Law Violated During Chock's Appointment to Kauai County Council?
KE: The appointment is contested in the last of the plaintiffs' 13 claims against the county. It describes how the Council received numerous applications for the position, but kept the names secret. The Council met in closed executive session to winnow the list down to just two: Chock and KipuKai Kualii, who finished eighth in the last election.
By identifying only Kualii and Chock, “the Council deprived the public of any opportunity to know the identity of everyone on the list of applicants and, thus, the identity of the people the councilmembers chose not to put on the 'short list' for public discussion,” the complaint states. “As a result, the public was deprived of any opportunity to know whether, and to what extent, political affiliation, political favoritism, personal bias, campaign contributions (or the lack thereof), education, employment or other factors may have influenced the selection process. The applicants had no privacy interest in maintaining anonymity, or if they did, their privacy interests were outweighed by the public interest in knowing the credential and experience of the applicants who the council passed over in the members' rush to choose a replacement councilmember who would support overriding the Mayor's veto of Bill 2491.”
The complaint contends the state "Sunshine Law" (HRS 92-4 & 5)does not authorize the Council to winnow the list of applicants in secret. Under HRS 92-11, the Council's action is voidable upon proof of a violation, in any action brought within 90 days of the challenged meeting.
“This action was filed within that time period; the Council's appointment of the replacement member must be voided,” the complaint states. “All actions taken in reliance on the vote of the improperly selected replacement member — including but not limited to the override of Mayor Carvalho's veto of Bill 2491 — is likewise void.”
IM: Labeling becomes fallback position for activists stung by NYT expose of anti-GMO lies
HNN: Both sides prepare for legal battle over Kauai pesticide ordinance
WSJ: Ag Firms Sue to Block Anti-GMO Law
read ... Kauai Electric
Anti-GMO Senator Ruderman Slapped Down by Scientists
CB: State Senator Russell Ruderman ... wrote an article for Big Island Weekly recently, titled GMO Facts and Fictions, which he says is the first in a series of installments.
What’s most interesting are the comments that follow his article, like this one from Karl Haro von Mogel, Ph.D. Candidate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics, UW-Madison, Chair, Biology Fortified, Inc. Von Mogel is highly educated on issues regarding GMOs, and he wrote this:
I applaud State Senator Ruderman's desire to clear up confusion about genetically engineered crops, but in this opinion piece, he has made a great number of outright falsehoods that further confuse the topic and muddy the waters. I am a plant geneticist who studies this topic very closely and is building a database of all peer-reviewed scientific studies on genetically engineered crops, so I am very familiar with this field. I will attempt to correct the most egregious of Ruderman's errors.
He goes on to correct many of what he calls Ruderman’s "outright falsehoods" in detail. It's a very long comment.
BIW: GMO Facts and Fictions
read ... Richard Ha
Will Abercrombie administration continue to oppose disclosure of judicial nominees?
ILind: The House Judiciary Committee will hear a bill this week that would amend the Hawaii State Constitution to require public disclosure of judicial nominees at the same time the list is sent to the governor by the Judicial Selection Commission.
The issue has been on the back burner for the past two years, but the bill could again highlight Governor Abercrombie’s past opposition to such disclosure.
HB 420 was introduced in 2013 by Representatives Scott Saiki, Della Au Belatti, and Chris Lee, and referred to the Judiciary and Finance committees. It didn’t get a hearing.
Judiciary Chair Karl Rhoads has now set the bill for a hearing on Friday, January 17, at 2 p.m.
read ... More Secrecy
State AGs tell Obama to enforce health law
HTH: ...in November, as millions of Americans received cancellation notices from their insurers informing them — contrary to Obama’s promises — they would not be able to able to keep their health care plans, he announced an “administrative fix” that amounted to him saying he wouldn’t enforce his own law, which barred certain insurance policies.
Congressional Republicans, backed up by a number of legal scholars, have warned Obama this is unconstitutional. Now state attorneys general are doing the same. In a Dec. 26 letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, 11 AGs, led by West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey, raised multiple objections to Obama’s decision, under which the president left it up to state regulators and insurance companies to work out whether they were going to abide by Obamacare’s legal requirements.
The letter also was signed by the AGs of Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia.
Morrisey argued that Obama’s decision violated the president’s oath of office promise to faithfully execute the laws.
read ... Above the Law?
Star-Adv: East-West Center must prove itself
SA: The East-West Center needs to raise its public profile. That happened recently, but not in the way anyone would have hoped.
A week ago a noted energy expert, Fereidun Fesharaki, resigned from the center along with three of his colleagues. The complaints they raised centered on the Manoa institution's leadership, primarily its president since 1998, Charles Morrison.
The center has not adapted well to budget cuts it already has endured, Fesharaki charged, and he said it's unlikely to survive those to come, now more than a year following the death of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, its champion on Capitol Hill....
Morrison, who spoke Thursday with the Star-Advertiser, vehemently defended the center, which he said has been "reinventing itself" ever since its first precipitous budget cuts in 1994. That year the annual budget was cut by 60 percent, from $24 million to $10 million. The research staff also shrank by more than half, and the money for the center's famous full-ride scholarships for foreign students withered away....
Its current budget includes $15.8 million in appropriated federal funds, as well as $15.2 million in competitive government grants. About $3 million of that comes from private foundations, Morrison said, with about as much from foreign governments or foundations.
read ... Prove itself
'Chamber Week' launches Legislative Proposals
SA: "Our role at the Legislature is one of our most important functions," she said. "This year, in addition to tracking and supporting or fighting against bills, we are going to take a more proactive stance by introducing our own package of bills to protect employers from increasing business costs, support the progress of new industries and sectors, and create an environment that will attract new business, promote competition and stimulate expansion of the private sector to provide increased employment opportunities."
Chamber officials said the group's legislative effort also will focus on lowering the cost of doing business, reducing overlapping regulation, furthering the state's manufacturing industry and supporting early childhood learning.
In addition, the group is marking Chamber Week with a series of events, many of which are geared toward the legislative process. They include
LINK: Chamber Week
read ... 'Chamber Week' launches pro-business endeavors
Honolulu Council Bill 6 Ban Tents From Sidewalks
Bill 6 bans tents placed on the sidewalk. This will force more homeless drug addicts to accept shelter. Testimony is needed to overcome the heartless souls who want to keep the homeless on the streets where they can be exploited by human traffickers. Hearing Tuesday, Jan. 14th at 9am at the City Council Committee room in Honolulu Hale.
KITV: Council begins new effort to place public restrooms in Chinatown
SA: Workers and volunteers to tally up the homeless
DN: Anti-human trafficking activist Kathryn Xian is against Bill 6. Obvious question: Who is more vulnerable to human trafficking a homeless person on the street or one who is accepting shelter? Duh.
Tax Keeps 'Car Sharing' Companies Out of Hawaii
CB: The Hawaii Energy Policy Forum organized a panel discussion that is scheduled to take place Monday at the Hawaii State Capitol. They hope to talk about the merits of a program as well as the issues that are preventing the service from gaining a foothold in the islands.
Blue Planet Foundation, which advocates for eliminating the use of fossil fuels, plans to send a representative, along with officials from the City and County of Honolulu and members of car sharing groups.
The main problem is a tax that car share advocates say makes it too costly to do business here.
Walter Rosenkranz is the business development manager for car2go, a popular car sharing service in 16 European and North American cities. He wants to bring the service to the islands, but says the tax system has created a major roadblock....
the rental car surcharge tax in Hawaii treats car share vehicles the same as regular rental cars, meaning they’re charged at the same $3 flat rate as car rentals that are used for the whole day. This has resulted in huge tax rates — more than 30 percent for one-hour rentals.
Car2go’s business model is to rent by the minute, making the tax rate even higher.
While $3 may not seem like much when it's tacked on to a $40 or $50 a day rental car, when it's charged to a one hour, $10 car share rental, the proportion is significantly higher....
read ... Car Sharing
Will Gambling be on Legislative Agenda?
KGI: The Hawaii State Legislative Session begins this week. Several groups will be watching to see if gambling bills introduced last session will return.
There were bills to establish stand-alone (not in a hotel) casinos in Waikiki, to allow multi-state Powerball and Mega Millions lottery, shipboard and Internet gambling, to establish a state lottery commission, allow bingo and raffles for nonprofit organizations, and even a pilot pari-mutuel horse racing project for Neighbor islands that supported the plan.
The bills were either stuck in committee or were deleted from the conference hearing schedules last year....
Hawaii Republican Party concurs as Chairman David Chang said the House members are opposed to gambling in part for public safety issues.
“We are concerned with the social ills and law enforcement concerns that come with gambling,” Chang said. “Hawaii’s brand has always been a family friendly tourist destination and with many more tourist places across the world creeping up, it is vital for our economy that we keep our tourist safe and family friendly.”
Bob Hickling, Chairman of the Kauai Republican Party said that a solid sample of public opinion should be assessed prior to any legislation on gaming.
“As nearly as I can tell it should be thumbs down on casinos, sideways on lotteries, and thumbs up on raffles,” Hickling said.
With casinos you run the risk of attracting vice and corruption in business and politics, he said. A lottery could fund pre-K education or other noble objectives, but it is either a tax on the poor or the stupid, he added, depending on whether you are looking at people or the odds.
However, Hicks does feel that nonprofit bingo and raffles do not present a social risk as small dollar fundraising efforts for good causes.
read ... Gambling?
Honolulu Police Misconduct Continues But So Does the Secrecy
CB: Many more officers were forced to take time off in 2013, sometimes for far more serious offenses. Two were fired. Officers threatened citizens, fought with coworkers, forged signatures and crashed into cars while driving under the influence.
In all, 35 Honolulu Police Department officers were suspended or discharged for misconduct in 2013, according to the department's latest annual report that county police agencies are required to file with the Legislature.
That’s more than in 2012, when 30 officers were punished for 35 incidents of misconduct.
The annual misconduct reports provide a glimpse into the police disciplinary process, but little else. Each incident is described in only a couple of sentences. No names, dates or other relevant information — such as if an officer is a repeat offender — is provided.
It’s part of an underlying problem in Hawaii’s public records law.
read ... Misconduct?
Report Cards for Hawaii's D.C. Delegates: How'd They Do?
CB: Mazie Hirono only missed one vote in 2013, Colleen Hanabusa reached across the aisle a lot to co-sponsor legislation and Tulsi Gabbard and Brian Schatz each had a bill enacted. All four also worked with each other to push legislation jointly.
Those are some of the highlights from the 2013 Report Cards for All Members of Congress, released last week by GovTrack.us, a government transparency website.
LINK: Hawaii Congressional Delegates Score Cards
read ... Delegates
Reserved parking stalls for food trucks proposed
SA: Oahu's food trucks and lunch wagons could bid for exclusive rights to park in stalls designated for them under a bill proposed recently before the Honolulu City Council.
Such permits would provide a measure of certainty to truck owners like Island Popper's Andrea Tournis-Vagenas from needing to stake out and vie for prime parking stalls with other food truck owners or motorists every day.
It would also make it legal for the vendors to park in metered stalls longer than the posted maximum times....
read ... Food Trucks
State fines Captain Cook man for illegal kayak vending
WHT: During the Nov. 21 operation, Kolii initiated a conversation with a plainclothes DOCARE officer about renting a kayak around 9:30 a.m., according to the request. After discussing a potential rental, Kolii provided contact information for a company called Big Island Canoes, which also was printed on a door of a vehicle parked next to Kolii and Aquino.
Aquino then reportedly retrieved a paper from that vehicle that included product pricing and contact information for Big Island Canoes and another company, which Aquino told the undercover officer was his partner’s business. After agreeing to the rental of one three-passenger kayak and two masks and snorkels and the cost, another DOCARE officer arrested Aquino....
Although Aquino held a special use permit, it was not a commercial permit allowing for solicitation of patrons within the park, according to the department. The commercial solicitation of patrons within the park violates park rules and is grounds for permit revocation.
read ... Big Undercover Operation
DEAL TO BUILD RECYCLING, WASTE TO ENERGY & BIOGAS FACILITY IN MAUI
WMN: According to Maui County, Mayor Alan Arakaw has now executed an agreement with the Maui Resource Recovery Facility, to finance, design, construct, own, and operate the facility, which will divert approximately 85%of the County's municipal solid waste (MSW) from disposal in the Central Maui Landfill.
In addition to increasing the diversion of waste from the landfill, which the County said was the primary goal of its 2009 Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan, the facility will include a material recycling facility (MRF) to separate recyclable materials such as metals, glass, plastic, cardboard, and paper.
The waste then will be further separated into digestible organic fraction and residual matter. The organic fraction will go to a closed anaerobic digester, which will produce biogas and digestate.
The residual waste will be processed into solid recovered fuel (SRF) that will replace imported coal for energy generation.
The County added that the facility's power needs will be largely met by creating electricity using the landfill gas and renewable gas as a fuel source.
read ... Waste Management News