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Thursday, January 16, 2014
January 16, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:21 PM :: 4479 Views

Hawaii Planned Parenthood Denies Lawmakers’ Request to See Its Graphic Sex Ed Curriculum

Health Connector Update: 2,709 Individuals, 350 Businesses Signed Up

Omnibus Laden With $744M Federal Pork for Hawaii

Michael Medved, Lynn Finnegan Launch School Choice Week in Honolulu

Americans for Prosperity: Schatz, Hirono are Zeroes

Appleseed: Creating a Fairer State Tax System and Economy

Ward: No Pension Tax

Opening Day: Johanson Outlines Republican Caucus Goals

Sen. Sam Slom Opening Day Comments

Speaker Souki Opening Day Remarks

House Approves 2014 Committee Assignments

Faleomavaega Video Raises More Questions than Answers

Hawaii Scores ‘F’, Lacks Access to Emergency Care and Disaster Preparedness

Hawaii: 7.18% of Households have $1M Liquid Assets

Bed Bug Cities: Honolulu Slips to 45th

Hawaii House speaker: Lift county cap on hotel tax

AP: Hawaii House Speaker Joseph Souki started the 2014 legislative session Wednesday by calling for lawmakers to remove a cap on how much counties can share in the state's hotel room taxes, a move that would be welcomed by local mayors on the islands.

Souki said the state should think about building a greater partnership with the local governments that give services that help tourists.

"They are the ones who maintain our roads and parks and provide the law enforcement officers and first responders who serve our visitors as well as our" local residents, he said.

Mayors have long called for the cap to be removed so the counties can pay for services used by tourists while they're on the islands.

"The gesture is not only long overdue, but should be viewed as a better long-term investment in our counties and in our No. 1 industry," Souki said.

read ... More TAT for Counties

Rising Waters, Stinging Ants and GMOs Top Legislative Priorities

CB: A bill jointly supported by the House and Senate environmental committees would have government officials compile the latest pseudo-scientific information on climate change, as well as fill in data gaps, to get the most precise picture of the effects of a warming climate on Hawaii through 2050.

The state planning department would then lead planning efforts aimed at adapting to the changes.

"It asks the planning department to come up with firm plans with actionable specifics that we can actually move ahead on, instead of 'piecemealing' the thing," said Rep. Chris Lee, chairman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee.

Another bill being introduced by Rep. Cynthia Thielen, the committee's vice chairwoman, would put the lieutenant governor in charge of climate change planning.

Also on the environmental agenda this session are bills that address invasive species, Matson's September molasses spill at Honolulu Harbor, pesticides, GMOs and sharks.

For Sen. Mike Gabbard, chairman of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, increasing support for the control of invasive species is a top priority this session.  Stinging Little Fire Ants, which could cost the Big Island $170 million annually in damages in the coming years, were recently detected on Oahu and Maui.

read ... Rising Waters, Stinging Ants and GMOs Top Legislative Priorities

Seed firms on Kauai report data on pesticide use to state

SA: According to the December reports, Syngenta Hawaii used 213.6 gallons and 366.6 pounds of restricted-use pesticides; DuPont Pioneer used 118 gallons and 13.4 pounds; Dow AgroSciences used 127.4 gallons; and BASF used 2.2 gallons. For some types of pesticides, the companies reported gallon usage, and for others the number of pounds used.

LINK: December Pesticide Use Report

read ... Very Small Amounts

Time's up for CGI Group, Hawaii lawmakers say

SA: The Hawai‘i  Health Connector awarded CGI a $53 million four-year contract a year ago to build its online marketplace, but the lead website developer failed to meet an Oct. 1 launch date, and Hawaii was last in the nation to go live with health plans on the exchange. The Connector, operating with $204.3 million in federal grants that expire at year's end, did not go live until Oct. 15 due to software problems that have stifled enrollment and continue to plague the system.

Lawmakers are adamant that Montreal-based CGI deliver what it promised or pay up.

"We should make CGI responsible to fully deliver for the state of Hawaii. If they come up short, I do believe the taxpayers deserve to get their money back," said Senate Health Committee Chairman Josh Green (D, Kona-Kau). "People should live up to their deadlines. I've called into question whether or not we're getting our money's worth. Time for a big change may be coming."

Rep. Angus  McKelvey (D, West Maui-Maalaea-North Kihei), chairman of the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, said Tuesday that Connector officials are "aggressively pursuing" all options available to the state, including possible litigation to try to get "money back for nonperformance."

But after further talks Wednesday with Connector interim executive director Tom Matsuda, McKelvey said his previous statements about the Connector seeking damages were inaccurate.

read ... CGI Group

Star-Adv: Don't water down teacher evaluations

SA:  After all the wrangling and public debate it took to strengthen the accountability of public school faculty for their students' achievement, it would be a waste to now step away from that commitment to high-quality teacher job evaluations.

That is what the Legislature is in danger of doing if it simply throws up its hands at the price tag for putting the evaluations in place, rather than push education officials to save money through efficiency measures.

There are various reforms underway at Hawaii's public schools, largely program changes developed with a $75 million Race to the Top federal grant. The Department of Education has requested about $14 million for a new hire at each school to help manage the added workload from these reforms.

However, it's the evaluation system, bolstered by more rigorous data gathered in surveys and classroom observations, that seems to have drawn the most fire from lawmakers.

The most pointed criticism came from state Sen. David Ige....

read ... Its Destiny

Legislators, Administrators Squabble as University of Hawaii asks for $33.5 million

UH: Deferred maintenance needs a total of $487 million across the 10-campus system, with the bulk of the work needed on the flagship Manoa campus. Officials point to a combination of reasons for the neglected repairs, including downturns in the economy, inability to secure funds from the state, and capital improvement resources being diverted to new construction projects.

UH proposes eliminating the backlog over six years, and repaying the bond debt with tuition over the next 30 years. It needs approval from the Legislature and governor to float the bonds.

"Our approach this year is to say, ‘Let's try something different. Let's come in and ask to see if the Legislature and the (Abercrombie) administration will support us taking responsibility for this backlog,'" interim UH President David Lassner told the state House Finance and Senate Ways and Means committees Tuesday.

UH is asking the state to cover two costs tied to its contract with the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, ratified in 2010: $14 million for multiyear salary restorations and $19.5 million for 3 percent raises this year and next year. Lawmakers previously told UH to use tuition for the increases.

  • SA: Legislators take UH to task over 'pressure' from TV ad
  • PR: UH Hilo Straney Takes Credit for PSA on Pharma School  Best Comment: The truth is the legislature has *not* provided funding for the College of Pharmacy. It is the only school of pharmacy in the State; its dean, faculty, and program of instruction is in place and producing pharmacists for Hawai'i. The school's provisional accreditation is in jeopardy because some O'ahu-centric legislators think that everything of import has to be on O'ahu. The University of Hawai'i at Hilo has the land, the instructors, the program, the library resources. Now the State needs to step up to the plate or our State will loose its only college of pharmacy and our kids will have to go back to going out of state to become pharmacists -- and most of them will not come back. It is past-time for the obstructionist legislators to get off their fat egos and fund the buildings.
  • Meanwhile: UH Presidential Selection Committee Meets, Decides to Decide Nothing for Now

read ... Budget Fight?

Souki Drops Call for Income Tax Cut

PR: The Maui Democrat had said last year that a 2009 income tax increase on the wealthy should end early.

But now Souki says the state should simply let the tax increase -- which was approved to help the state get through the recession -- expire as scheduled at the end of 2015.

The tax increase pushed Hawaii's highest tax rate to 11 percent, among the highest in the nation.

read ... Political Radar

It's Time to Revamp Hawaii's Regressive GET

CB: Hawaii taxes our residents in poverty more heavily than all but three other states in the nation.

Most of this regressivity is caused by our heavy reliance on the General Excise Tax (GET), which generates half of all revenues collected by the state. Sales and excise taxes are the most regressive form of taxation. Unlike wealthier households, who can save or invest their income, lower-income households must spend all or most of their income on necessities such as food, shelter, and transportation. As a result, low and moderate-income residents end up taxed on a far greater percentage of their income than higher-income households.

Background: Appleseed: Creating a Fairer State Tax System and Economy

read ... Revamp GET

Souki aims to change medical marijuana laws

KHON: Rep. Souki said his objective is merely to find outlets for medical marijuana. He admitted it's going to be somewhat complicated to pass the legislation.

"We're working on the dispensaries. We have to work with the health department and other departments in trying to create dispensaries," Rep. Souki said.

While Rep. Souki stopped short of advocating marijuana legalization, he said that discussion may come down the road.

"You know, it probably would cut down on one of the factors that the police have to look into. I'm open to whatever the legislature wants to do. It's not something I'm going to engage in actively. I have enough controversial issues to deal with. I'm not looking for another one," Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.

KITV: Should Hawaii create medical marijuana dispensaries?

read .... Lawmaker aims to change medical marijuana laws

LWV pushing for electronic meeting notices

ILind: The League of Women Voters is promoting a draft bill to address deficiencies in Hawaii’s law relating to public notice of meetings subject to the state sunshine law....

read ... Electronic Meetings

Loony Rep Lowen: Sharks Should be Protected

CB: Last year was the worst on record for shark attacks. There were 14 reports of people being bitten — two of them died.... a bill being introduced by Rep. Nicole Lowen, (D-Kona) vice chairwoman of the House Water and Land Committee, would protect the species, penalizing anyone who harmed or killed a shark.

The bill is in response to a controversial video of fishermen on the Big Island hooking a tiger shark and dragging it along the rocky coast of the Big Island.

Lowen says she's also introducing legislation that would limit the number of state permits available for the collection of aquarium fish.

Reality: Anti-Aquarium Nuts Attack Big Isle Fisherman For Catching Delicious Tiger Shark

read ... Loony Lowen

“Revenge Porn” Bill Could Protect Kris Coffield

HR: IMUAlliance and Girl Fest Hawaii are sponsoring legislation for the 2014 legislative session to outlaw nonconsensual distribution of sexually explicit images, commonly called “revenge porn.” If passed, the proposal would subject any person who disseminates a representation of a nude person, a person engaging in sexual contact, or a person engaging in sexual penetration without the consent of the person represented to penalties for a misdemeanor offense and a fine of not less than $1,000.

“As technology becomes smarter, faster, and more portable, the ability to use technology to humiliate people becomes easier,” said IMUAlliance legislative director Kris Coffield. “We must take a stand to protect people's personal and professional integrity.”

(When he was endorsed for BoE by the Hon Adv in 2006, Coffield was allegedly exposed as an alleged weirdo and alleged liquor thief by an allegedly angry ex-girlfriend and a former employer.  Remember the allegedly airbrushed alleged wings?  Would that photo be covered?) 

read ... Revenge Porn

Kahuku residents generate heat at wind turbine meeting

KHON: The meeting may have been about wind power, but there was heated discussion as well from Kahuku residents skeptical about another wind farm project proposed in their area.

Nearly a hundred Kahuku residents jammed the Kahuku Community Center Wednesday night for the meeting, which was focused on the health impacts of 15 wind turbines that are proposed for the Na Pua Makani facility.

Before that discussion could begin, there was frustration generated from residents who wanted Hawaiian Electric Company at the meeting, which was called by state Rep. Richard Fale (R-Haleiwa, Waialua, Laie, Kahuku).

"This is our meeting, not yours. This is our meeting," one resident told Fale.

"So should we end the meeting then? The issues that were relayed to my office..." said Fale.

"Our meeting. Our meeting," the resident responded.

read ... Kahuku

Kaiser High School principal retires as investigation continues

SA: Sosa, who led the Hawaii Kai high school since 2008, was placed on paid leave in late September, but DOE officials said at the time that the department could not comment on any details of the investigation.

The following month, Kaiser employees said privately that two other employees in the school's office had been placed on leave and that files were seized -- details that the DOE also said it could not confirm at the time.

A DOE spokeswoman said today that the investigation is still ongoing and that the department is looking to fill the position permanently.

Justin Mew, principal of the neighboring Niu Valley Middle school, has been filling in as interim principal.

Sosa last year was named Principal of the Year by the Hawaii Association of Secondary School Administrators, and nominated for its national counterpart's Principal of the Year award for 2014.

read ... Investigation is Retaliation?

Hawaii’s First Full-Service School Health Center Now Serving Kahuku Students

CB: The Koolauloa Health Center broke ground last year thanks in part to a $500,000 federal grant and took school officials a decade to plan and advocate for. It employs three full-time staff, including an oral health doctor and a physician’s assistant.

The write-up says 35 students visit the center each day for services ranging from dental x-rays to vaccines. The center also offers counseling in areas such as stress management and suicide prevention.

Additionally, the center supports athletics at a school that’s home to 50 teams and where 80 percent of the student body plays at least one sport....

As many as 2,000 school-based health centers span across the mainland.

read ... Hawaii’s First Full-Service School Health Center Now Serving Kahuku Students

Lower loan guaranty could prevent veterans from buying homes

HNN: Last year more than 5,000 families in Hawaii, veterans and active-duty military relied on loan guarantees from the VA for their homes.

"I served for eight years in the Army in aviation. I was a door gunner on Blackhawk helicopters," veteran Corey Cazares said.

He fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. He and his wife, Amanda, are expecting their first child so they want to sell their Mililani home and buy a bigger one.

"When you start a family you want something a little bit nicer," Amanda Cazares said.

But the couple and other military veterans will have a hard time since the VA slashed Honolulu's VA Loan Guaranty Limit. The guaranty protects lenders from loss if the borrower fails to pay. It was $750,000 for Honolulu. The VA cut it to $625,000. That's $60,000 lower than the median sales price for a single-family home.

read ... Veterans

Former GOP lawmaker Faith Patricia Evans Dies at 76

SA: Faith Patricia Evans, who served in the state House of Representatives from 1974 to 1980 and was the nation's first female U.S. marshal, died Jan. 9 at Castle Memorial Medical Center, after a prolonged illness due to a muscle-debilitating disease, her family said. She was 76.

Evans, who served as the U.S. marshal for the District of Hawaii for nearly 10 years after being appointed by President Ronald Reagan, was the Republican state representative for the Kailua-Kaneohe district.

Legislators who served with Evans described her as a hardworking lawmaker unafraid of investigating issues and pursuing the right path.

"She was a strong, independent type of lady who went after (correcting) what she thought was wrong," said former state Sen. Whitney Anderson....

Evans is also survived by her son John, daughters Tricia and Kathleen, brother Donald Ernesto and sisters June Shultz and Leona Parker.

Visitation is at 9:30 a.m. Friday at St. John Vianney Church, 920 Keolu Drive, Kailua.

Services will take place at 10:30 a.m. Aloha attire is requested. In lieu of flowers, the family has suggested donations to Hawaii's Plantation Village. Online condolences may be sent to borthwickoahu.com.

read ... Obituary

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