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Friday, January 31, 2014
January 31, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:23 PM :: 5041 Views

Judge Tosses Gay Marriage Suit

204K in Hawaii on Average Day: Visitors Set Record in 2013

Monsanto Hawaii Pesticide Use

Sabato: Hawaii Senate Race 'Leans Schatz'

DLNR Invites Comment on Statewide Outdoor Recreation Plan

Hawaii Auto Insurance Quotes Vary 48% -- Depending on Month

Video: Policy Roundtable with Grassroot Institute

Veterans Treatment Court Celebrates its One-Year Anniversary

Jan 31: Today's Legislative Agenda

Monday official launch of ’14 election season

Sweet Heart Deal:  City Contractor Pleads Guilty in Real Estate Scam

SA: A city leasing program is coming under fire — and some increased scrutiny — after a concessionaire with contracts at two major parks was recently arrested in an alleged real estate scheme.

Questions about how the program screens its applicants and manages its multimillion-dollar assets began surfacing this month with the arrest of 38-year-old Sakara Blackwell, president of Optimum Marketing and Management Corp., the company that holds long-term city contracts to run the Barefoot Beach Cafe at Kapiolani Park and the concession stand at the Diamond Head end of Ala Moana Beach Park.

Blackwell, who did not respond to an interview request from the Hono­lulu Star-Advertiser, has pleaded not guilty to the allegations outlined in a federal grand jury's 45-count indictment against her and alleged co-conspirators Marc Melton, 43, and Jennifer Ann McTigue, 46....

Blackwell, Melton and McTigue are alleged to have fraudulently obtained the releases of more than $4.5 million in mortgages or other financial liens against seven properties. The defendants then allegedly sold the properties for prices totaling more than $3.3 million. According to the indictment, Blackwell deposited money she is alleged to have fraudulently obtained into a banking account for Optimum.

In light of the charges against Blackwell, Koba­ya­shi said she wants to ensure that the city is protecting its assets.

Since concession stands are mostly cash businesses, Koba­ya­shi said the charges against Blackwell cast doubt on her deals with the city. If a city audit finds that Blackwell underreported sales or if her legal woes prevent her from operating her businesses or meeting her payment obligations, Koba­ya­shi said the city could potentially lose thousands of dollars of monthly income on its assets, and the public could lose access to refreshments at two of Oahu's most popular beachfront parks....

Under the terms of that original permit issued in June 2011, Blackwell agreed to maintain an on-site public restroom and pay the higher of a $350 monthly fee or 5 percent of gross sales. In comparison, Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa at one time had been paying a monthly fee of $16,000 based on 32 percent of projected sales of $50,000 to operate a Wai­kiki Beach food concession near the police substation.

After Hyatt declined to extend its lease, the city awarded a revocable permit to Service Systems Associates to operate the space. However, the terms, which ran through April 2013, were $5,000 a month and 5 percent of gross sales over $40,000.

"What Optimum was paying was ridiculously low. They got a real sweetheart deal," said Wai­kiki Neighborhood Board Member John Dew, adding that he's glad Koba­ya­shi is leading the charge to review the leasing of city concessions.

read ... Sweetheart Deal

Seitz: No Mental Health Facility in Hawaii able to Treat Roosevelt HS Suspect

HNN: Attorney Eric Seitz said the boy will be transferred to Queen's Adult Psychiatric Unit while police continue their investigation.

From there, he's likely headed to the mainland where he can get more appropriate treatment for mental illness, Seitz said.

"In my opinion, they should have had that happen a lot time ago and we wouldn't have had this weeks events occur," Seitz said.

"All the parties are now working on the premise that we need to find a suitable psychiatric facility for him and clearly there is nothing in Hawaii that will serve his needs."

Police shot the boy after he punched two officers and slashed a third with a large knife. His attorney says the boy -- who suffers from bouts of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses -- poses a danger to the public and himself when he's not on medications or receiving treatment.

But Seitz also says the state botched his client's treatment plan.

"He's been in and out of facilities, he's escaped from facilities," Seitz said.

"They talk about finding other places for him and nobody follows through and does that. They put him on meds but nobody monitors or ensures whether the meds are actually taken."

SA: Mainland facility sought for teen runaway

read ... Failure of Mental Health Care System

Rhoads Fat Chance to Ban Free Speech

Borreca: Some of the proposals are in the "File under F for Fat Chance category," because they aren't going anywhere, such as Rep. Karl Rhoads' annual attempt to declare that "freedom of speech applies only to natural persons."

That proposal is a protest against the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that corporations and labor unions can spend as much money as they want on a political campaign that is not coordinated by the candidate.

Of course, the state of Hawaii cannot reverse or change a federal court case, so Rhoads' idea will not move.

Neither will a series of proposed amendments by the Senate's lone Republican, Sen. Sam Slom.

He wants to change the Constitution to allow for a unicameral Legislature, a balanced budget amendment and those hardy legislative perennials of initia- tive, referendum and recall.

Yup. File them under F.

read ... Rhoads is an F 

Minimum wage bill passes through committee, Tip Credit Eliminated

KITV: A Senate bill would increase that amount to $8.20 an hour beginning next year.  It would then increase 95 cents every year until 2017 when it reaches $10.10 per hour. ...

The bill also includes cutting tip credit.  That means restaurant owners don't get to pay workers who receive tips 25 cents less than the minimum wage.  Instead, they would have to pay the full amount.  It's a change Gyotaku restaurant owner Tom Jones doesn't agree with.

"It means the increase goes to the tipped employees, which are the highly compensated employees.  It disadvantages restaurant owners to provide higher wages to the kitchen staff," said Jones.

CB: Legislature Wrestles With a Living Wage for Hawaii

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

read ... Minimum wage bill passes through committee

Hawaii Senate Ag Panel OKs Task Force on Genetically Modified Food

CB: The Hawaii Senate Committee on Agriculture has approved a bill to create a task force to study whether the state should regulate the use of genetic engineering in farming. 

Senate Agriculture Chairman Clarence Nishihara introduced the measure, Senate Bill 2454, and three Senate committees met on Thursday afternoon to consider the bill.

Supporters of the proposal included the Dept. of Agriculture, the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association and the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce,.

Brian Miyamoto from the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation said the task force would “create an environment where emotion and politics can be removed from the debate.”

MW: Politics: Fears Win Over Facts

read ... Hawaii Senate Ag Panel OKs Task Force on Genetically Modified Food

Republican lawmakers lay out legislative agenda

SA: House and Senate Republicans announced Tuesday they have come together for the first time in several years to pursue a package of measures including — at the top of the agenda — a proposal to establish direct democracy.

"For too long now, people have assumed that we have all the answers in this building," Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Kahala-Hawaii Kai) said at a news conference in the Capitol atrium. "We believe that these measures, particularly initiative and referendum, will spur more interest, more voting and more participation. So this, this year, is our joint starting point."

Slom said minority members plan to redouble their efforts to pass initiatives and referendums in light of last year's special session, which attracted thousands of people to the Capitol chanting "Let the people vote" on a constitutional amendment for same-sex marriage.

read ... Agenda

Gay-Atheists Still Trying to Redefine Free Speech as Lobbying

AP: It's been months since same-sex marriage became legal in Hawaii, but taxpayers still don't know how much money supporters or opponents spent to influence the decision.

Lobbyists are supposed disclose how much money they're spending to influence lawmakers, but critics say the state disclosure system is among the weakest in the nation and prevents a timely and complete tally.

It could be that nothing improper took place, but "if you don't have the information then how do you even know to have a concern?" asked Democratic state Sen. Les Ihara, who has introduced legislation he hopes will strengthen the system....

For instance, gay marriage, an issue that generated heated testimony from thousands of people and raucous rallies on both sides, passed with heavy support during a special session that ended Nov. 12, but based on reporting requirements, disclosures won't be made until Friday. Even then, however, critics say, under the ethics panel's position, taxpayers will likely learn little....

read ... Attack on Free Speech

Big Downtown Churches Debate How Deeply to Bow Before Gay Gods

KITV: Kawaiahao Church very quietly stopped booking commercial weddings late last year.

It's honoring previous bookings, but is holding off on any new ones until the congregation decides whether to allow its facilities to be used for same-sex marriages.

Members are to vote next month.

Across town at Central Union the congregation’s vote was 2-1 to allow its church to be used for weddings without regard to gender.

But it did not come without a cost.

The Pastor said about half-dozen members parted ways with the church.

read ... Converting the Weak to the Gay Religion

UH presidential search will go national

SA: The selection panel, not an outside firm, will do the screening to find a new leader....

Best Comment: "Terrific. The same boobs who brought us Dobelle, Herm Frasier, Grenwood and Norm Chow are on the job. What could possibly go wrong?"

read ... Presidential Search

Hawaii Lawmaker Wants New Statewide Agency To Monitor Police

CB: Espero recently introduced Senate Bill 2937 to create a statewide police standards and training board. The board would set the minimum training standards for police officers in Hawaii and oversee certification.

More importantly, the board would have the ability to revoke an officer’s certification if that individual committed serious acts of misconduct or no longer met statewide benchmarks, such as for physical and mental fitness....

Hawaii is the only state without a statewide standards and training board. It’s also one of only six states that doesn’t have the power to revoke a police officer’s certification for wrongdoing.

read ... Monitor the Monitors

Two Gambling Bills in Motion

CB: The measures are Senate Bill 769, which would grant a 20-year license for one stand-alone casino in Waikiki, and Senate Bill 767, which would authorize shipboard gaming on vessels in state waters.

The measures were introduced by Sen. Malama Solomon and co-sponsored by Sens. Donovan  Dela  Cruz and Gil  Kahele. Kahele chairs  Senate Tourism, the committee that is first referral for the bills.

read ... Gambling

SB1007: No State Liability for Hikers' Accidents

CB: Senate Bill 1007 ... would expand current law to further protect the state from liability in the case of accidents or injuries on public lands or on “voluntary trails” created by hikers and climbers.

Largely ignored by the media, this bill certainly was on the radar of Hawaii's hiking and rock climbing communities. An online petition, hosted on Change.org, has more than 1,700 signatures. On Facebook, a number of Hawaii outdoors clubs have cut-and-paste language from the petition, urging its members to sign it, and more urgently, submit testimony.

Hundreds of people did. So much testimony has come in that the House Judiciary Committee clerks say they can't count it all yet. It likely will take a few more days for the testimony to be uploaded to the Hawaii Legislature's website because of the volume.

On Thursday, dozens of people packed into a small hearing room at the State Capitol for a hearing on the bill, some in full hiking and climbing gear. House Judiciary Vice Chairwoman Sharon Har struggled to keep things moving quickly.

read ... Hawaii Hikers Climb New Heights With Online Activism

State, energy firms bet on importing liquefied natural gas to Hawaii

PBN: Hawaii Gas is poised to bring in the state’s first shipment of liquefied natural gas to use as a backup to its synthetic natural gas system after receiving favorable marks from the Consumer Advocate on its application with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission....

Critics Competitors of liquefied natural gas, who include environmental alt-energy scammers' groups such as the Blue Planet Foundation, say LNG, which is a fossil fuel, is a poor way for Hawaii to transition from oil to renewable resources.

But Hawaii Gas is not alone in its interest in the fuel. The state, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative and Par Petroleum, which purchased the Tesoro Corp. operations in Hawaii last year, are also looking at whether bringing LNG to the Islands makes sense.

read ... LNG Bet

Hawaii Senators Want to Restore Funding for Public School Athletics

CB: Sen. David Ige, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, has introduced a bill that would appropriate funding for athletic programs at public schools statewide.

Senate Bill 3083 would restore funding that was cut during the recession and increase the number of athletics positions at schools starting with the 2014-15 year.

The measure also has the support of Sen. Michelle Kidani, vice chairwoman of both the Ways and Means and Education committees, and Sen. Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Education Committee.

read ... Hawaii Senators Want to Restore Funding for Public School Athletics

Lawmakers propose solar connection rules

HNN: House Bill 1943 would require the Public Utilities Commission to establish guidelines for Hawaiian Electric to follow to ensure people who are eligible for solar can connect to their grid in a reasonable time and at a reasonable cost.  It also requires the PUC to initiate the discussion on upgrades to the Hawaiian Electric system for anticipated growth of customer generation no later than July 1, 2014.

read ... HB1943

HECO to Ease Solar Connection Requirements 

SA: In a move designed to ease a growing backlog of residential solar photovoltaic system installations, Hawaiian Electric Co. is preparing to issue revised guidelines that will allow more PV systems to be installed in areas on Oahu already saturated with solar panels if the systems meet certain technical specifications.

The new guidelines will update the interconnection rules put in place by HECO last fall in response to its concerns that excessive amounts of solar energy being generated by rooftop systems could have adverse effects on the utility's electric grid in highly saturated neighborhoods, a HECO executive said at a legislative hearing Thursday.

read ... Interconnection

Veterans dying because of health care delays

CNN: U.S. veterans are dying because of delays in diagnosis and treatment at VA hospitals.

At least 19 veterans have died because of delays in simple medical screenings like colonoscopies or endoscopies, at various VA hospitals or clinics, CNN has learned.

That's according to an internal document from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, obtained exclusively by CNN, that deals with patients diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and 2011.

Nov 2013: Hospital delays are killing war vets

MW: Our Combat Vets Deserve More

read ... Thanks, Obama

Representatives Ward and Fale address HB 525 – Veterans

RELATING TO FAMILY COURTS.

Report Title:  Spousal Support and Maintenance; Veterans Disability Benefits

Description:  Prohibits courts from considering a person's federal veterans disability benefits in determining whether to award support and maintenance allowances or the amount of such allowance to the person's spouse or former spouse. Effective July 1, 2014. (HB525 HD1)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8reg550uapA

Representative Gene Ward addresses HB 1498 - Public Order; Urination

RELATING TO PUBLIC ORDER.

Report Title:  Public Order; Urination and Defecation

Description:  Prohibits urination or defecation on paved roads or sidewalks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wTNa6ZZqBA

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