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Wednesday, January 22, 2014
January 22, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:45 PM :: 3397 Views

Full Text: State of the State Address

Pono Choices Coming to Every Middle School Next Semester

Michael Medved, Lynn Finnegan Kick off Hawaii Celebration of National School Choice Week

SB2693 Would Ban Soda, Juice, Latte Over 16oz

Fitch Ratings for Hawaiian Electric Tout Decoupling

Demographia: When Will Honolulu Urban Planners Wise Up and Follow the Chinese Communist Party Line?

Cachola: Revitalize Kalihi by Moving OCCC

Kauaʻi Judge Denies Injunction on KIUC Meter Opt-Out Fees

11 Running for KIUC Board; Candidate Forum Scheduled

UH West Oahu to refund certain student fees

Akaka Tribe: Hanabusa is the Only One

Full Text: Office of Information Management Report to Legislature

HB1943, HB2166, SB2238 Mandate $100M in Rate Hikes

IM: HB2166, HB1943 and SB2238 prohibit the utility from charging interconnection costs to ratepayers seeking to interconnect rooftop solar to the grid.

To handle this mandate the utility would have to spend tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading the transmission grids.

The utility currently passes fees on to consumers on a per kWh sales basis.

The 8% with rooftop solar need a modern grid. The 92% without solar can get by with the existing dumb grid.

The 92% who do not have rooftop solar will pay the same per kWh charge as the 8% who do have rooftop solar.

But the 8% use less energy per customer since they self-generate some of the electricity so they would pay less than their share.

Each customer within the 92% would pay more for a service they don’t need, and each customer within the 8% would pay less for a service they require.

read ... There are no easy answers to three Major Energy Quandaries

Abercrombie to Dump Morita as PUC Chair

IM: The Governor has decided that the PUC isn’t toeing the line sufficiently.

Therefore Abercrombie will not reappoint former Legislator and current PUC Chair Morita to a six-year term. Her term ends in June and her replacement will probably have to be submitted to the 2014 Legislature for approval.

IM: The Energy Career of Hermina "Mina" Morita

read ... The Future of the PUC

Firm allowed to shield data on wind project

SA:  The state Public Utilities Commission has authorized Castle & Cooke Properties to block the general public from seeing documents the company deems confidential that it will be filing as part of a regulatory review of its planned Lanai wind energy project.

The PUC last week approved a "protective order" sought by Castle & Cooke that will allow the company to black out proprietary information dealing with "trade secrets or other confidential research, development, commercial, customer usage, financial vendor or bid information."

The PUC in July launched an investigative proceeding to review the progress of Castle & Cooke's original proposal submitted in 2008 to develop a 200-megawatt wind energy project on Lanai and have the electricity transmitted to Oahu via an undersea cable. Castle & Cooke sold most of Lanai to billionaire Larry Ellison in 2012 but retained the right to develop the wind project.

read ... Firm allowed to shield data on wind project

Legislators Get a Good laugh over Abercrombie's Cynicism

CB: Indeed, the governor mentioned seniors or kupuna more than a dozen times in his speech, and cynical observers couldn't help but think that Abercrombie was making an overt appeal to the most important voter bloc. Remember, this is the same guy who in his first State of the State proposed taxing pension incomes, something that enraged AARP Hawaii and led to the proposal's quick death. But on Tuesday, Abercrombie vowed to protect pensions from taxation, a promise that goes against House Speaker Joe Souki's recent proposal to tax pensions of more than $100,000.

read ... The voters are so easily manipulated

New Senate Rule: President in Charge of Gut and Replace Bills

PR: Under the new rule, the Senate president would review drafts that make major amendments or wholesale changes to bills to see if they should be re-referred to committees with rightful jurisdiction. The Senate president would have to make the call within 24 hours after receiving the draft.

read ... New Rule

TAT vs. GET: Hawaii Co Council Split

WHT: Hawaii County Council members seemed at odds Tuesday on whether they’d rather have the state give the county back its share of the transient accommodations tax or allow it to raise general excise taxes.

The discussion in the council Finance Committee ended with no vote, but it gave a glimpse into which council members preferred which mode of financing county operations.

On the one hand, some members said, the state Legislature, particularly House Speaker Joe Souki, has been talking about removing the cap placed on the counties’ share of the TAT during the recession. That money, collected as a surcharge on hotels and lodging rentals of less than 180 days, primarily comes from island visitors.

On the other hand, having the option of raising the GET would forestall the counties from having to go hat in hand every legislative session to ask the state for money. Supporters, lying thru their teeth, say one-third of the GET is paid by tourists.

“This is an opportunity for the state to give us home rule,” said (old-boy) Finance Committee Chairwoman Valerie Poindexter of Hamakua. “It’s giving us the authority without having to go to the state.”

The Hawaii Council of Mayors has requested bills SB2115 and HB1606 to allow the counties the extra penny on the dollar, a 25 percent increase in the tax. The mayors say they currently don’t intend to raise the tax; they just want the option open to them in case they need to.

“This may be a moot issue if the state Legislature does not pass either one of these bills,” said South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford, representing what the Washington Post calls, Hawaii's new white ruling class.

But Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille (same team as Ford) believes the counties should be more assertive in pushing to get its TAT money back instead....

read ... TAT vs GET = new vs old

Hawaii Underemployment Rate 11.6%

CB: Abercrombie also highlighted the state's low unemployment rate to illustrate his economic achievements. "Our unemployment has improved to the fifth lowest in the nation," he said.

According to Nov. 2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hawaii is tied for the fifth lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 4.4 percent along with Iowa, Vermont and Washington. That’s an improvement over 5.3 percent a year previously.

But some economists say that figure gives a misleadingly positive description of employment of Hawaii. Many workers in Hawaii hold multiple jobs and part-time jobs, making the unemployment rate just one part of the picture.

The percentage of multiple job-holders in 2012 in Hawaii was 6.2 percent, higher than the national average of 4.9 percent. The state doesn’t keep data on part-time job holders but a recent study found that that number has been rising.

Hawaii’s U-6 unemployment rate — which includes workers who are forced to work part-time for economic reasons and people who have been discouraged from looking for jobs — stands at 11.3 percent. That’s still lower than the national average, but much higher than 4.4 percent.

Background: Furloughs: Abercrombie Caught in Lie as He Launches First Campaign Ad

read ... Abercrombie's Lies Busted

Boost in Minimum Wage Is Only the First Step

ILind: (Appleseed's) Lee is quick to acknowledge that by some measures, Hawaii looks good. The median household income over the past five years averaged $67,492, which was 27 percent above the national average. Only 10.8 percent of Hawaii residents were living below the official poverty level over the same five year period, according to the Census Bureau, compared to the national average of 14.9 percent. And we enjoy great weather, a healthy amount of exercise, and it all adds up to a good quality of life.

But this isn’t the whole story, Lee said.

For the last several years, the Census Bureau has been testing a new set of supplemental poverty guidelines which take into account differences in both available benefits and necessary expenses, such as differences in housing costs.

Hawaii is one of 13 states where our poverty rate measured by the new supplemental guidelines is considerably higher than the older “official” rate, jumping to a three-year average of 17.3 percent. By these measures, Hawaii has the 9th highest percentage of residents living in poverty among all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to a census report published in November 2013.

“So while we don’t think of ourselves as a high poverty state, the truth is we are,” Lee said. “We have to acknowledge we are not doing enough to address the issue of poverty.”...

...a loose coalition of groups that have come together to support not only the minimum wage increase, but a related series of tax proposals designed to benefit low and moderate income families. The groups include the Appleseed Center, and range from several labor unions, led by Unite HERE Local 5 and the ILWU, through religiously grounded groups like FACE (Faith Action for Community Equity) and Catholic Charities, groups addressing issues of homelessness and early childhood education, and the progressive wing of the local Democratic Party....

Reality: Flawed Minimum Wage Hike Advocacy Will Cost Hawaii's Poorest Workers $7M this Year

read ... Poverty's Creators Unite

Hawaii County council committee votes against full GMO ban

WHT: It was deja vu for the Hawaii County Council on Tuesday as it voted against a full ban on genetically modified crops while meeting in committee.

The vote was the second time the council’s Public Safety and Mass Transit Committee had considered Councilwoman Brenda Ford’s bill.

The result was the same: one yes vote and a negative recommendation to the full council....

The vote was the first time the council had taken up the GMO topic since a proposal to create an ad hoc committee to study the issue failed last month.

The (existing) ordinance requires exempted growers or anyone conducting GMO research to register with the county Department of Research and Development.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center appears to be involved in the most genetic research on the island.

According to a list of projects on the USDA’s website, recent or ongoing genetic research at the Hilo-based facility includes work with anthuriums, tomatoes, lettuce, papayas and orchids. The projects typically involve developing resistance to disease and improving shelf life.

Impacts to the facility remain unclear. The law bans open-air testing but PBARC officials have been hesitant to comment how the law may change their operations.

Research has not yet been stopped or put on hold, said PBARC director Marisa Wall.

The county Department of Research and Development is waiving the $100 registration fee called for in the ordinance, in an attempt to get as much participation as possible, said Deputy Director Donn Mende.

Growers of modified crops, and those conducting genetic research on plants, have until March 5 to register. A form is available at the department and on the county’s website.

read ... Outbreak of Sanity

Anti-GMO Sen Ruderman -- Protests are Driving Shoppers into my 'Natural Foods' Store

CB: "Today, the biggest driver of organic food's growth is the desire to avoid GMOs." -- 'Natural' food store owner and anti-GMO Senator Russ Ruderman

read ... Profit Motive Exposed

Plans for Oahu-Maui Grid Connection Raise Questions About Lanai

CB: Castle & Cooke is not giving up its fight to build a wind farm on Lanai to power Oahu despite a plan to connect Maui and Oahu instead via an undersea cable.

Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission held a hearing Tuesday evening at Farrington High School on Oahu to hear public comments on the Oahu-Maui connection, which would allow for the adoption of increasing amounts of renewable energy.

Only six people showed up to testify during the brief meeting which ended up focusing partly on whether the Oahu-Maui plan was superior to the Lanai wind farm. Representatives from Castle & Cooke testified that it made sense to pursue both.

"Any real project that would help achieve (renewable energy goals) for the state should be presumed to be in the public interest and should not be precluded from being able to advance," said Chris Lovvorn, a representative of Castle & Cooke Hawaii, the Lanai wind farm's developer.

State energy officials have said that it would be difficult to pursue both energy projects at the same time....

Lovvorn told state regulators that it made sense to connect Lanai to Oahu along with Maui. He said that 700 megawatts of wind energy are needed to meet the state’s energy mandate of 40 percent renewable energy by 2030 and that there aren’t enough resources on Maui and Oahu.

While the meeting on Oahu sparked little public interest, a meeting planned Thursday for Maui, where grid-tied renewable energy projects would most likely be sited, is expected to draw more engaged residents.

read ... Grid Connection?

Maui Council panel approves $23M Union Contract

MN: The panel recommended approval of around $23 million to pay for a Nov. 30 arbitration decision and award for firefighters, battalion chiefs and assistant chiefs. The money will cover pay raises and fringe and health benefits for a little more than 300 firefighters for fiscal years 2012 through 2017.

The arbitration award does not affect Fire Department office staff, the fire chief or his deputy, county officials said.

After the meeting, county Budget Director Sandy Baz said money has been put aside for the firefighters' pay and other increases for fiscal 2014.

read ... $23M

FBI: Man Collected Disability for Dead Mom 8 Years

SA: A three-count federal indictment said that from March 2003 through July 2011 Splater defrauded the state out of $223,925 in disability payments that were intended for the benefit of his mother, Edith Splater, who had died. He allegedly falsely asserted to the state that she was still alive in order to continue receiving these benefits.

Edith Splater died on March 3, 2003, the indictment said. However, the defendant continued to receive disability payments until July 5, 2011.

read ... Eight Years no Questions

Death of 3-year-old Points To Lax Oversight of Hawaii Dentists

CB: The recent death of a 3-year-old girl who went into a coma after visiting the dentist’s office raises questions about the regulation of children's dentistry in Hawaii and whether the state is doing enough to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future.

The dentist, Lilly Geyer, who operated the now-closed Island Dentistry for Children in Kailua, may have misrepresented herself as a highly qualified practitioner capable of doing intense medical procedures on children.

Background: Finley Boyle Tragedy Exposes Danger of Primary Care Dentists Operating as Pediatric Dental Specialists

read ... Death of 3-year-old Points To Lax Oversight

Military mover fraudulently overcharged, lawsuit says

SA: Since 2007 a major moving company and an affiliate bilked the U.S. government out of millions by making false claims about the weight of belongings of military personnel shipped to and from Hawaii and other locations worldwide, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. attorney's office in Columbia, S.C.

Covan World-Wide Moving and its affiliate, Coleman American Moving Services, are paid by the government based on the weight of items moved. Over the years, they "systematically falsified weight certificates, shipping records and invoices by increasing shipment weights," the lawsuit said.

The alleged "potentially vast and complex fraud" first was discovered at an Augusta, Ga., shipping depot where Coleman American receives and ships items belonging to soldiers at Columbia's Fort Jackson, according to the lawsuit and related government filings.

But the government said its investigation also revealed that the staff at a Joint Personal Property Shipping Office at Pearl Harbor became suspicious of the accuracy of shipping weights and began reweighing some deliveries.

An analysis by the Pearl Harbor office revealed that the defendants and their affiliates consistently overbilled the United States by about 9 to 10 percent of the actual shipment weight, according to the complaint.

Nov 2013: Did Matson and Horizon Lines defraud the United States?

read ... Fraud

Monthly Forum on Hawaiian Sovereignty Starts in Kapolei

CB: A year-long series of public forums on Hawaiian sovereignty is kicking off in Kapolei with a discussion of Hawaii’s history and why that justifies some form of restoration....

read ... Monthly Forum on Hawaiian Sovereignty Starts

Central Union Church Switches to Gay Religion

PR: The congregation at Central Union Church, one of Honolulu's iconic churches, has voted to open church facilities to gay weddings.  The congregation held a special meeting on Jan. 12 to decide the issue. The vote was 149 to 63.

read ... Gays Rule You

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