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Tuesday, March 11, 2014
March 11, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:43 PM :: 7065 Views

House Speaker Joe Souki Endorses Jones Act Reform

HI lawmakers want private providers to subsidize Obamacare exchange

With Asset Test Gone, Thousands Pile into Hawaii Medicaid

For Sale Cheap: One More Bankrupt Alt-Energy Scheme

DLIR: Employment will Expand 4% on Construction Boom

Back from Afghanistan: Soldiers Return to Schofield

Anti-science dominates Senate climate marathon

Unemployment: Nearly 7% of Hawaii Workers Quit Looking

HR: Last year, labor force participation in Hawaii totaled 57.4 percent, compared to 64.3 percent in 2006.

"This just tells you that the low unemployment number isn't the greatest way of looking at your economy," said UHERO Executive Director Carl Bonham. "If your unemployment number is very low, as it has been in Hawaii….[and] you've got people who've left the labor force, then it's not something to get excited about."

On Tuesday, Bonham will be part of the panel deciding whether to further downgrade the state's general fund forecast....

Abercrombie Admin: DLIR: Employment will Expand 4% on Construction Boom

read ... UHERO

Reward Campaign Contributions from Illegal Mainland Developers?  Ruderman says "That's what we do"

HTH: A bill that would allow so-called “sustainable living research sites” skirt county building codes in Maui and Hawaii counties is moving through the state Legislature despite opposition from several state agencies and an ethics complaint against the bill’s sponsor.

SB 2274, sponsored by Sen. Russell Ruderman, a Puna Democrat, cleared the House Water and Land Committee on Monday. It would require Maui and Hawaii counties to create a specialized permit for the sustainable living sites on parcels of less than 15 acres within the rural and agricultural districts.

The sites would promote a live-in environment that emphasizes conservation, waste re-use, organic foods, renewable energy and shared living.

The committee advanced the bill on a 6-1 vote, with Rep. Faye Hanohano, a Puna Democrat, the sole no....,

Graham Ellis, president of the Hawaii Sustainable Community Alliance and a Puna developer, has been leading the charge for the bill, which he said he wrote for Ruderman, according to testimony submitted by Sheryle “Sativa” Sultan, a Seaview Estates resident.

Ellis couldn’t be reached for comment because he is on the mainland and doesn’t carry a cellphone, according to a man who answered his telephone Monday afternoon.

Sultan and eight others signed a letter Monday sent to the state Ethics Commission asking for an investigation into what they characterize as special interest legislation sponsored by a state senator on behalf of a tax-exempt nonprofit campaign supporter that is not registered as a state lobbyist. She said Ellis has several unpermitted buildings on his property and would therefore benefit from the legislation.

“SB 2274 was authored by a tax exempt entity to directly influence public policy and, if enacted, will tangibly increase the value of this tax exempt entity’s special interests,” the letter states. “This will enable them to avoid current zoning and special use permit issues that Mr. Ellis would not be able to accomplish without the passage of this bill.”

“Mr. Ellis said (on tape) at a public meeting on 3-3-14 that he is taking this approach i.e. authoring SB 2274 because back in 2010 he was denied a variance, or a special use permit, and thus the whole reason for going this route is ‘to sidestep the variance process,’” Sultan said in separate testimony to the House Water and Land Committee.

Ruderman reiterated there’s nothing wrong with sponsoring bills for constituents. He denied there was any tit for tat in helping a campaign supporter. Ellis was in a photograph with Ruderman in a campaign brochure before the last election.

“Of course bills are in response to constituent concerns,” Ruderman said. “What else would a legislator do? That’s what we do.”

read ... That's What we Do

Hawaii's economy simmers; Abercrombie says it sizzles

SA: The elections are coming and that is a good thing....

What elections do is give us a great and booming economy.

For this economic theory to work, you need a little drama. When a new governor first cracks open the budget books, there is great horror.

Remember former Gov. Linda Lingle's somber statewide announcements that the Democrats had spent all the money and she was cutting everyone's budget?

And remember Gov. Neil Abercrombie's cries that our budget canoe was about to "huli" because it was actually Lingle who spent all the money?

After four years of Lingle, the GOP governor was able to announce that the economy is roaring with a $700 million surplus and, as she said, "You can have it all."

And after one term of Abercrombie, not only is our little canoe rock solid, he says it is floating on a surplus of $844 million.

All you need for the economy to right itself is an incumbent running for re-election.

That theory will be tested this afternoon when the Council on Revenues meets to come up with new tax revenue projections....

Lingle won re-election with a 61 percent margin of victory. Those are figures out of Abercrombie's reach....

read ... Simmers

PUC Fight: Abercrombie Admin Suddenly Decides to Nail Hermina Morita on Illegal B&B

(While pushing illegal B&B operator Wilson for Supreme Court)

KGI: A former state representative and current chair of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission is being investigated for illegally building and operating a Hanalei bed and breakfast for more than a decade.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources alleges that Hermina ‘Mina’ Morita and her husband, Lance Laney, ran the vacation rental Taro Patch Hale without permission, and built the secluded North Shore vacation getaway in a state conservation district without the proper permits.

The couple has been ordered to shut down Taro Patch Hale and could face significant fines for possible violations, according to documents obtained by The Garden Island.

In a Dec. 16 letter addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Laney, William Aila, chair of the Board of Land and Natural Resources, outlined the state’s allegations....

Taro Patch Hale’s website,, has been shut down, with the words “Business is no longer in operation.”

Meanwhile, just ignore this: Zoning Board: Abercrombie's Supreme Court Pick Operating Illegal Enterprise for Over a Decade

read ... Set up for dismissal from PUC Gig

Hanohano says she was thrown 'under the bus'

SA: A defiant state Rep. Faye Hano­hano insists her behavior has been mischaracterized and she has been unfairly "thrown under the bus" by the House leaders who reprimanded her.

In a 45-minute interview with the Big Island Chronicle over the weekend, Hano­­hano said she has only tried to educate people about Hawaiian history and culture and that her critics either misunderstood the Hawaiian language or are too shallow to get her message.

Hanohano (D, Hawaiian Acres-Pahoa-Kala­pana) suggested that House leaders retaliated against her for not being a "team player" on a bill that would have banned smoking on public beaches. The bill had passed the House Water and Land Committee in late January, but Hano­hano's House Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs Committee would not sign off and the bill was ultimately deferred.

LINK: Video of Interview

read ... Hanohano

Lawmakers propose fees for Hawaii health exchange

AP: The unspecified fee would be charged by the state insurance commissioner until mid-2018, based on the number of people the carrier insures....

The new insurance fee is part of a flurry of House proposals that were rolled into one overarching bill (HB 2529) now being considered by the Senate.

The bill also would create a legislative oversight committee to review the exchange's financial and operational plans....

A proposal to have the state take over the exchange previously was part of the main House bill, but was taken out of consideration for several reasons. First, if the state had taken over the exchange, the assisters who help people sign up for coverage would have become state employees, sending state costs skyrocketing, McKelvey said.

The state also would have assumed the exchange's liabilities, exposing the state to even further financial risk. In addition, the Legislature cannot legally disband a private nonprofit, he said.

Another proposal (HB 2581) calls for seeking waivers from some requirements of the Affordable Care Act to accomplish goals like downsizing the Connector. A task force would come up with ways to improve the operation.

"It provides a lot of flexibility to go beyond or to address health coverage in ways that were not so prescriptive under the Affordable Care Act," said Beth Giesting, who heads the Office of Healthcare Transformation for Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

A Senate proposal (SB 2470) would reduce the number of members of the Connector's board of directors. The board needs more representatives from the private sector, because as it stands, the members primarily are from insurance providers and the state, McKelvey said.

NYT: Whines About 'Harassment' of State Exchanges

Ito: Three Things Hawaii Needs to Know About Getting Health Insurance

read ... Health Exchange Fees

Get Medicaid? Lose Kupuna Care

SA: "This issue has been brewing throughout the session, and I think we need to clarify the legislative intent that Kupuna Care services should be available to all of our frail and vulnerable population," Rep. Della Au Belatti, chairwoman of the House Health Committee, said during the committee's hearing.

The office last year began implementing a protocol that restricts Medicaid recipients from receiving Kupuna Care services, such as home-delivered meals, to prevent duplication of services under future expansion of the federally funded program.

Director Wesley Lum explained to lawmakers that, according to Kupuna Care policy, funds should go toward elderly residents who are at risk of needing Medicaid services, not those already receiving Medicaid.

read ... Budget Balancing Technique?

HHSC Privatization Still Alive

MN: Senate Bill 3064 would allow member hospitals of the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. (including Maui Memorial Medical Center) to form partnerships with private nonprofit companies.

The partnerships would hopefully stem the losses HHSC has suffered in recent years by making the hospitals more efficient and allowing them to obtain cost savings on supplies that larger companies enjoy because of bulk purchasing.

Hospital and public officials have stated the current structure of HHSC is unsustainable in the long run. A story in The Maui News said there is major work still to be done on the bill, but it has crossed over to the House of Representatives.

read ... Still Alive

City considers voucher program for Housing First

KITV: "We would be looking at multi-family type structures for the Housing First program, not single family homes," explained Witty-Oakland under questioning by council members. 

To help launch the controversial program, Mayor Kirk Caldwell is seeking $18.9 million in the capital improvements budget and another $3 million in the operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

"We could probably acquire, or rehab and acquire a unit for about $100,000 per unit," said Witty-Oakland. "So, with $18.9 million we could get to 189 or 200 units."

The Community Services director said while multi-family type units would typically serve families under Housing First, the city wants smaller units for individuals. To qualify for the program, a person or head of household must earn 50 percent or below of a geographical area's median income.

"Some of the new construction trends across our country are to build micro-apartments, they're 250 square feet, but they provide everything you need to support an individual in a home setting," said Witty-Oakland.

Getting the Housing First program off the ground is not dependent on the capital improvements budget alone. Witty-Oakland explained a voucher program could launch quickly if the council approves her department's operating budget for the initiative, which would serve about 110 individuals....

Another option for the city is to look at a fixed location for Housing First in areas where homelessness is a major problem, for example Oahu's Leeward Coast and Chinatown.

However, a city-owned property at 1333 River Street is not an option after members of the Chinatown community loudly protested the Housing First concept. The parcel was purchased with Community Development Block Grant funding in 1992 for $6.75 million....

The city is also looking at the possibility of using some units from the city's affordable housing portfolio for the Housing First program. Witty-Oakland said that would only happen if residents currently living at those 12 complexes agree.....

SA: Housing First plan envisions 180-200 permanent residences

read ... City considers voucher program for Housing First

Decimal Dust: Honolulu Ethics Director Takes His Case for More Money to City Council

CB: City Ethics Commission Director Chuck Totto took his case for more money directly to the Honolulu City Council Budget Committee on Monday. He's been fighting with Mayor Kirk Caldwell and the administration for months over what he sees as an effort to undermine his office by cutting short its cash flow.

“I don’t know how many people have come into our offices . . . literally crying because they are so distraught with what’s going on in a department,” Totto told council members.

He described a rising caseload of ethics complaints and investigations, all managed by his small office of four people and a current budget of $361,843....

Caldwell’s recently released budget, which is now before the City Council for debate and approval, only included an extra $38,500 for the Ethics Commission. The funding provides for a $10,500 salary increase for the investigator and another legal clerk who would be paid a salary of $28,000.

Totto called the budget increase “decimal dust.”

read ... Ethics

Star-Adv: Common Cause Backs Bill Gutting Sunshine Law

SA: A couple of bills that concern good-government organizations are still moving in the Legislature. In one case — House Bill 2139, which widens allowances for members of boards and councils to convene outside their usual meeting place — the public would be served best if it were simply spiked.

The bill would amend the chapter on public agency meetings and records, specifically the section on "permitted interactions" of board members. The law now restricts any more than two members, or any number comprising a board quorum, from meeting separately or discussing actions.

Carmille Lim, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, said proponents of the bill say the law has precluded board members from attending purely social gatherings. If some clarifying language would satisfy that complaint, Common Cause would accept it, but that argument seems to be a stretch.

The organization correctly observes that the bill fixes no actual problems but simply opens new loopholes.

For example, the bill would allow unlimited numbers of county councils to interact at a meeting held in the state that is "free to the public." Lim said this would allow boards to gather without notification at a "free" meeting. Technically, it may be open to the public, but because notification isn't required, the attendance could be shaped by issuing invitations only to certain stakeholders, Lim said — and she's right about that, too.

Another bill still alive after last week's crossover is HB 1812. This measure, which should be enacted, seeks more disclosure about cases of police misconduct. This legislation requires summaries with more detail about incidents that resulted in an officer's suspension or discharge, including facts about multiple incidents involving the same officers.

DN: Oppose HB2139, which opens a loophole in the open meetings law as big as a barn door

read ... In the Know

Big Wind Programmatic EIS to be released in April

IM: The federal government held public scoping meetings for the Big Wind project back in 2010. The feds propose releasing the Draft EIS in April 2014 and holding public hearings the following month....

With very little publicity, the build-up to the April release has been carefully planned.

On January 16, 2014 the U.S. Department of Energy released their “2014 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Annual Planning Summary.”...

Information on the Hawai’i Clean Energy PEIS is available on the PEIS website."

On February 12, 2014 and again on February 21, 2014 the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Schedules of Key Environmental Impact Statements” includes the “Hawaii Clean Energy Programmatic EIS (DOE/EIS-0459).”   Both documents state that the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement is scheduled for release in April 2014.

On March 3, 2014 the Department of Energy sent emails to selected individuals....

You will be able to comment on the Draft PEIS via the PEIS website and also during an upcoming public hearing to be held in May 2014 at various locations in Hawaii. Dates, times, and meeting locations will be announced on the PEIS website, in the Federal Register, and local media outlets.”

Perhaps the documents didn’t have space to mention Liquefied Natural Gas, Wave Energy or cultural impact analysis. One might assume they are all in the documents.

read ... Big Wind Coming

HECO starts trial run of smart-grid technology

SA: The test, which involves 5,200 homes in six neighborhoods from Pearl City to Kahala, is a precursor to an eventual expansion of smart grid technology to the rest of Oahu, as well as Maui County and Hawaii island, by 2018, HECO officials said Monday.

One of the major components of the $10.4 million test project is a network of advanced electrical meters that will give HECO access to vital information about the amount of electricity that is being used by customers to help the utility better manage the flow of electricity on its grids. The smart meter also eliminates the need for a HECO employee to read the meter at the customer's home to determine usage.

...A smart grid will help HECO better manage the volatility of the solar power.  "A smart grid is essential to achieving Hawaii's clean-energy future," said Jeff Mikulina, chief executive officer of the Blue Planet Foundation....

read ... Smart Grid

While Homeowners Wait, HECO Fast Tracks its own Solar Farm

HNN: Some believe it's unfair HECO can fast track its own project while they wait for approval of residential PV systems.

"We need to maka'ala and wake up and see the development that's coming over here and be stake holders at the table with industry that wants to come in here, so there's a compromise," Salmon said.

The HECO project will connect directly to the grid. Pai said it should not impact residential and commercial customers who want to install PV.

"There's an opportunity to bring this system on line very quickly to take advantage of the federal tax credits that are going to be available, and put it into service to very quickly benefit our customers." he said.

Background: Pine: 50,000 Solar Panels for Kahe Point?

read ... Fast Track

Five Year Wait for State to Approve Horseback Riding Permit

BIN: According to documents filed by Fujiyama during the Naniloa bankruptcy proceedings, Hawaii Outdoor Tours was formed by Fujiyama in 1991 “to create a tour company to provide activities on some 5,000 acres of land HOT leased from the State of Hawaii ….”

However, according to the DLNR, Fujiyama did not take control of the lease until 1999.

The document, which represented part of Fujiyama’s attempt to restructure HOT debt, said Hawaii Outdoor Tours was formed to “complement the services provided at the Volcano House Hotel,” a facility inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park that Fujiyama previously controlled.

“HOT had requested a special use permit to allow horseback riding and camping on the property, however, the State of Hawaii took over 5 years to respond to HOT’s request, and HOT finally decided to drop its tour activities plan,” the document said.

read ... Fujiyama’s State Lease in Ka`u in Jeopardy

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