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Friday, March 28, 2014
March 28, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:20 PM :: 5518 Views

Feds: Hawaii Health Connector Clients at 'High Risk' for Identity Theft

Slom to GAO: Audit the Hawaii Health Connector

Citizens from all Islands Meet to Establish Hawaii Independent Party

Abercrombie: I'll Keep Morita at PUC -- For Now

Hawaii Senate Committee Waters Down Pro-Hunting Legislation with Amendment

Rules for Protests at Hawaii State Capitol Challenged as Unconstitutional in Federal Court

Senators Snip Millions More Off State Budget, Deficit Spending Looms

CB: Senators snipped millions of dollars off the state budget Thursday in light of a lower revenue forecast, but not before restoring funding for preschool, environment and public safety initiatives that the House had cut in the draft it passed earlier this month.

The savings would help Hawaii retain a positive ending balance for the next few years, but financial projections show the state would still enter deficit-spending mode by 2017.

While Democrats touted the changes they made to the budget, the Senate’s lone Republican voiced his reservations.

“I must state my disappointment that we are not reducing government expenditures significantly,” Sen. Sam Slom told his colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee before they voted to advance the budget bill to the full Senate.

“I don’t think we’re being honest in terms of the real severity facing us,” he said....

Of the $158 million in supposed savings, $33.5 million is slated for salary increases for members of the University of Hawaii professors' union, $1 million for the Hawaii Invasive Species Council and $4.9 million for Kupuna Care and other senior citizen programs....

House Bill 1700, the state budget legislation, is headed to a vote before the full Senate. From there, a conference committee will iron out a final draft for the Legislature to approve by May.

read ... Deficit Spending Looms

Caldwell: Budget Growth based on Hotels, Condos

Borreca: ...when Mayor Kirk Caldwell comes to the state Capitol today, he is watching for a bill to give him more money.

That bill, House Bill 1671, would increase the city's share of the spoils from the state's hotel room tax.

The share was capped to pay off the state's deficit back in 2009. Instead of a percentage, the counties got a total of $93 million a year. Now times are better; the state isn't in a financial crisis and the counties need the love.

In an interview Thursday, Caldwell said the city is chasing a $46 million shortfall and he wants more of the transient accommodations tax (TAT) money.

"The money should be shared. We are on the front line. TAT is an appropriate tax; I'm not looking for a different one," Caldwell said....

Besides taxes, Caldwell is looking at other way to grow the Honolulu pie, and that includes his own ideas of the somewhat controversial Hawaii Community Development Authority.

He thinks the state's power to control growth in Kakaako should slowly be returned to the county, but meanwhile, he has to admit that all those new shiny and expensive condo towers will do wonders for his own property tax base.

"With the increase in value, we are going to see a benefit," Caldwell said.

Caldwell likes the Kakaako building boom — and if critics see narrow sidewalks and huge buildings looming over the property lines, Caldwell sees a lot of potential for growth.

read ... Hotels and Condos

Kiewit: Nobody has Ever Tried to Force This Much Rail Thru Urban Area This Fast

PBN: We have three contracts that happen to be the first major construction contracts that the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation let. There are many more contracts to come and other companies will likely bid for those contracts. We have contracts to build the first 10 miles of the guideway, as well as the storage and maintenance facility, and the entire program is 20 miles. These contracts are worth $1.1 billion.

I would say that one of the largest challenges is the sheer magnitude of the project we are undertaking. No one has attempted to build this much through primary urban areas in this short a period of time. We participated in building parts of the H-3 freeway. That was a large program, but not as complex as this program because there was nothing there. It was just nature. Here, we are building a large volume of work through predominantly urban areas. There is a tremendous amount of coordination that is required among public utilities, private property owners, residents, businesses and traffic.

PBN: ER or Senate: Dr. Josh Green tackles Hawaii’s health care ills from two perspectives.

read ... Kiewit

Eyeing The Sovereignty Struggle

MW: The state Supreme Court has said: “To date, no sovereign native Hawaiian entity has been recognized by the United States and the state of Hawaii.”

And one of the court’s most telling rulings was that “individuals claiming to be citizens of an independent sovereign entity are not exempt from the state’s laws.”....

I’m not against sovereignty being up for discussion. But with whom? Names on a petition of some people who claim

Hawaiian blood? A person self-proclaimed as Kahuna Nui? OHA? Delegates are voted in by all citizens of Hawaii, not just Hawaiians.

Are Native Hawaiians a “tribe” entitled to federal recognition? The U.S. government never dealt with them that way. And if you like tribal status, you’ll be up against many Native Hawaiians who say they reject that.

March 9, 2014: ILind: Sovereignty Debate Just a Matter of Faith?

read ... Bob Jones

Tip Credit: Do The Math, If You Can

Price: Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour is no longer the big issue. At issue for the committee is that they also voted to change the tip credit, which under current law allows employers to pay workers $7 an hour instead of $7.25 if they earn at least 25 cents per hour in tips.

This is where it got comical. A suggestion was made by the House Labor Committee to change the way the tip credit is calculated, using a recommendation from the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. It goes something like this: The tip credit would be eliminated for workers who earn less than 250 percent of the poverty line, following federal guidelines for the state of Hawaii. If you are an employer, the federal poverty level for a single person in the state of Hawaii is $13,420 per year in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Now for some arithmetic. For those earning more than 250 percent of the poverty level, the tip credit would increase by 25 cents per hour each year to reach $1 per hour in 2018.

Janet Mason of the League of Women Voters had the quote of the hearing when she said, “It will be challenging for employers to calculate the tip credit fairly.”

That’s if they have the time to calculate it in the first place.

read ... Tip Credit: Do The Math, If You Can

Employees Scoop Up 1000+ hours overtime at mental hospital in one year

HNN: For the first time in six years, senators have used their subpoena powers, compelling documents and testimony to investigate safety, overtime and favoritism at the state's only public mental hospital. The Senate began its probe after Hawaii News Now first interviewed three hospital employees about serious injuries they suffered that kept them out of work for months.

Deputy Health Director for Behavioral Health Lynn Fallin alarmed senators when she admitted that she was notified of just four out of about 20 serious assaults on staff at the hospital in the last two and a half years.

"If you only heard of four of the, say, 20, wouldn't that leave you under-informed about the severity of the conditions at the State Hospital?" asked State Sen. Josh Green, an emergency room physician who is co-chairing the investigative committee.

Fallin responded: "I believe that that's an area we do need to strengthen in terms of clarifying what level of assaults, serious assaults, need to be reported."

When questioned by senators, Fallin could not offer a consistent definition of what the department considers a serious assault on a staffer, such as whether it required an emergency room visit or a doctor's treatment.

"I think what we're going to find out is how much the administration doesn't know what's going on," said State Sen. Clayton Hee, co-chair of the investigative committee. "If we don't find that out, then what we will find out is that the administration is aware and nothing's being done."

Senators are also concerned about the large amount of overtime -- $2 million a year or 6 percent of its salary budget -- used to cover vacancies at the hospital.

Some employees have been paid 1,000 hours or more of overtime in a year, senators said. (Pension Spiking Baby!)

read ... Top Three Years

State responds to slow Dental investigation criticism

HNN: Curtis Wagasky's grave marker doesn't tell the whole story. The homeless, disabled Army veteran died December 21, 2012 after complications from having one tooth pulled by Dr. John Stover. That was 15 months ago.

So why do the investigations seem to take so long?

"You know investigations are really very, it's a fluid fluid process," said Daria Loy-Goto, State Regulated Industries Complaints Office (RICO), Complaints and Enforcement Officer.

read ... Dental Investigation

U.S. Secretary of Education to visit Hawaii

KHON: On Sunday, Duncan will hold a panel discussion with military families at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam to discuss issues facing military-connected students, particularly those related to their high mobility.

On Monday, Duncan will visit Ka Waihona o ka Naauao Public Charter School in Waianae. There, he will participate in a traditional Hawaiian greeting ceremony and hold a roundtable discussion, learning how the school is using culture-based education to address educational disparities affecting young Native Hawaiians.

Also on Monday, Duncan will join Gov. Neil Abercrombie and state Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi to tour Waipahu High School, where he’ll visit several classrooms to interact with students and teachers and eat lunch at the student-run cafe.

read ... Duncan

Plan to Force Homosexuality into Catholic Schools

CB: The Hawaii Catholic schools office, which supervises three dozen Roman Catholic private schools in the state, has just approved a new contract that says teachers can be fired if they engage in homosexual activity or marry someone of the same sex. The contract goes on to list a wide array of actions and behaviors that would justify termination.

Among the other acts that could justify firing, according to the contract, are abortion, in vitro fertilization or "unmarried cohabitation."

“The school expressly reserves the right to terminate the employment of any Teacher, who by word or example, denies the teachings or authority of the Church, or whose personal life or conduct is, based on Catholic teaching, immoral,” says a portion of the contract that was obtained by Honolulu Civil Beat.

The contract, which is called the "Standard Teacher Employment Agreement," is for full- and part-time teachers who must sign it every year they work.

The contract explicitly says that "homosexual activity" and “same sex unions” are not permitted.

The contract is slated to go into effect for the 2014-15 school year.

SA: The pact for teachers at Roman Catholic schools outlines acts that merit dismissal

HNN: Bill Hoshijo, the executive director of the mis-named Hawaii Civil Rights Commission said that section of the contract may violate teachers rights.  (No surprise here.)

Towleroad: Mainland Homosexuals Excited about Opportunity

read ... Litigation Plan

Jones Act hits Guam despite exemption

GPDN: Earlier this month, lawmakers from Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico met to discuss a push for possible amendments to the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act.

Although Sens. Tom Ada, D-Tamuning, and Rory Respicio, D-Agana Heights, were listed as participants, neither senator was present to represent Guam in the discussion.

But Respicio said this topic was brought up last year with local lawmakers who introduced Resolution 138-32, which asks Del. Madeleine Bordallo to support modifications to the “restrictive” act....

Ada said, although he supports in principle any effort that would enable goods to be imported and shipped to Guam at a lesser cost, lawmakers should tread lightly.

“I think we’ve got to be careful when we say we want to get out of the Jones Act,” Ada said. “What are we trading off?”

Background: Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Guam team up on Jones Act

read ... Jones Act

Land Board to Assess Fines Against Hawaii's Public Utilities Commission Chair

HR: Public Utilities Commissioner Hermina Morita will go before the state land board today to face charges that she and her husband built and operated an illegal bed and breakfast business on conservation land in Hanalei, Kauai.

Morita, who was considered the state’s "diva of environmentalism" while she served in the state House from 1996 to 2011, built several illegal structures without authorization, according to a land board complaint.

Figures on her bed and breakfast web site show the operation could have brought Morita and her husband as much as $87,000 a year or $1.3 million in 15 years.

The Board may fine Morita as much as $30,000 at its meeting today.

KITV: The land board voted to defer a decision on the violations for 45 days

IM: Laney B&B goes before the Board of Land and Natural Resources

read ... Land Board to Assess Fines Against Hawaii's Public Utilities Commission Chair

Kauai: Anti-GMO Pro Tourism Crowd

KE: Sorting through my inbox, I found a news release about the creation of a Kauai Chapter of the Young Democrats of Hawaii for folks under age 36. Its leadership — and I use the term loosely — is influenced heavily by the anti-GMO (and, interestingly, pro-tourism) crowd, including communications director Aria Juliet Castillo, who in real life flacks for the Hyatt; treasurer Aaron Rosenstiel, who is married to Fern, leader of the Mana March; secretary Leeona Thompson, a guest service agent at the Kauai Sheraton and “sunny first mate” in boyfriend Dylan Hooser's sunrise shell biz; Makoto Lane, a KCC photojournalism student and anti-GMO Facebooker; and Dylan, who was elected chair.

The release quotes Dylan as saying:

"Exploring economically sustainable solutions [like sunrise shell jewelry, perhaps?] to the challenges facing our island is integral to the decision making process.”

It goes on to state that Dylan is running for the 15th state House District — against fellow Dem Jimmy Tokioka and rabid Republican Steven Yoder — though he has not yet pulled papers.

Dylan appears to have the same tendency to overreach politically as his dad, Gary, who crashed and burned in his ambitious bids for Congress, and Lieutenant Governor. But hey, why shouldn't a guy who has never held any public office and scavenges sunrise shells for a living have a shot at the state house? This is America, after all. Land of equal opportunity and political expertise via cell division.

Besides, Dylan's already shown us he's got the smarmy politician's slippery grasp of the truth, as evidenced by his anonymous crybaby comments on this blog, frequent letters to the editor and an anti-biotech commentary published on Civil Beat. In it, Dylan sounds like a chip off the old block, echoing Daddy's “shame” terminology along with the undocumented, and even discredited, claims about “unusually high levels of birth defects and certain cancers.”

read ... About A Cancer

Hotels, Builders and Surfrider Foundation Team Up Against Dairy Farm

KGI: Pat Griffin, LBA president, ended the meeting when she sensed it was getting a little too confrontational. She said she wasn’t surprised by the tone, saying it’s a passionate issue for both sides.

“We, on this island, care deeply about our environment and protecting it and our neighbors at the same time. We believe in agriculture and sustainabilty,” she said. “How do the two merge together so all benefit?

Few accepted assurances that the operation of about 1,800 cattle on a total of 582 acres leased from Grove Farm Co. was being designed with best practices and would not pose problems.

Afterward,  Eileen Kechkloian wasn’t satisfied with what she heard.

“They wouldn’t really answer any questions. They skirted all the questions.’’

Rich Hoeppner questioned what happens if the ocean winds up being polluted by runoff including urine and manure from the dairy farm.

“I haven’t heard any answers yet what happens if there is pollution,” he said.

“I don’t believe there’s a dairy around with this many head of cattle on this small of acreage. It is experimental. We’re being experimented with right there and our ocean could be affected. And if it’s affected, how would we get the cows off the island to stop the problem. I don’t know what you can do, and you don’t either.”

Diann Hartman, spokeswoman for the nearby Grand Hyatt, questioned whether there were any dairy farms with such a high density of cows to acreage within two miles of the ocean and three of a thriving economic center.

“It’s good that they’re listening,” she said of Hennessey and Doyle Waybright, construction manager for the project. “I am certainly disappointed by the location that’s been chosen by Grove Farm.”

Hennessey and Waybright fielded the questions as they came. Sometimes with specific answers, sometimes, not. Several times, Hennessey said she couldn’t recall specific numbers off the top of her head, and others she said studies were done or were being done and different options were still being considered.

read ... Hotels and Enviros vs Ag

Attacked by Raging Idiots, Kauai Well project’s delay could mean its death

KGI: The Kauai Board of Water Supply voted Thursday to suspend the Department of Water’s controversial Kahili Horizontal Directional Drilled Well Project.

“Just drop it,” said North Shore resident F.J. Bender, one of only two who testified during the meeting. “Forget it!”

The decision came exactly two months after an aggressive crowd of more than 100 people took over an informational meeting on the proposal, forcing DOW officials to shut it down before even starting their presentation....

In a March 7 letter, however, Jim Williams of the Mears Group put his feelings bluntly, saying that public meetings have been “dominated by fringe members of the public who stage public tantrums and rely on intimidation an disruption to achieve their goals.”

“Written comments to the EIS Preparation Notice demonstrate that there is a range of opinions on the project, including support,” he wrote. “If KDOW terminates the project based solely on public meetings, this circumvents full public review of the project.”

read ... Well project’s delay could mean its death

Ruderman still buying Tomatoes from Ha

HP: The state's Committee on Agriculture hearing was this week, and they approved the governor's nominating me for a second term on the Board of Agriculture. It was a unanimous vote. The next step is that the nomination will go to the full Senate.

Also, Senator Ruderman asked to meet with me this week, and we had a good talk. He apologized for his choice of words, and I accepted his apology. I told him I understand, and that these things happen and I didn't take it personally.

He said, "I'm still buying your tomatoes, you know," meaning for his natural foods stores. I told him, "I know."

read ... Richard Ha

Green Energy Arrogance:  “I am the leader of the future” 

IM: More than one energy consultant spoke about how “everyone who needs to be at the table is here.”

What those few self-serving consultants meant is they were in attendance and so were the utility and the regulator and who cares about others.

Most Independent Power Producers in the State were not in attendance. The University of Hawaii was conspicuously absent. Environmental, cultural and community groups were scarce. Only one State Legislator – Senator Baker – came to the conference.

One consultant arrogantly said on more than one occasion, “I am the leader of the future.”

Dutch Kuyper presented the Parker Ranch vision of a Big Island regional micro grid that could supply 100% renewable energy to customers in the Waimea area at lower cost that HELCO’s electricity. The audience clapped longer and stronger for Kuyper than for any other speaker.

Dutch Kuyper is not merely talking change; he is proposing an on-the-ground pilot project that would be in the economic interest of the Ranch and of residents. This pocketbook approach could be easily replicated elsewhere.

AP: Parker Ranch aims to reduce electricity costs

read ... Transformational Energy Conference Held on Maui

Pot legalization called potentially devastating to islands

KGI: The two-day Drug Summit opened on Thursday with a panel presentation on reducing unintended consequences of marijuana policies, and preventing the onset of an industrialized “big marijuana” industry in Hawaii.

More than 100 participants representing public safety, education, health and social services were at Kauai Marriott Resort for the event sponsored by Life’s Choices Kauai, with the Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii and Smart Approaches to Marijuana....

Kamita said there were more than 60 marijuana-related bills introduced this past legislative session. Only four have moved through committees and are still being considered.

A bill would delete a provision requiring that only the primary care physician can recommend the medical use of marijuana. Another would add board certified pain specialist physicians, oncologists, ophthalmologists and board certified palliative care physicians to the list of medical professionals allowed to recommend a medical marijuana card.

Another would void a rental agreement provision that allows for eviction of a tenant with a valid medical marijuana card. The exceptions would be if an eviction for smoking tobacco is in the agreement, or if the property is a condominium or planned community association that prohibits medical marijuana.

Two House Resolutions would establish a statewide medical marijuana task force to look at issues including dispensaries. There were six bills for legalization or regulation of recreational marijuana that did not pass committees.

“Decriminalization is dead, and legalization is dead, but we still have the resolutions,” Kamita said.

Redman said people need to look at the states where legalization has occurred to see what is happening. Look at marijuana issues from a science-based perspective and step away from the extreme representations of the emotional and political arguments, he said.

For Redman, the medical marijuana question should be resolved by taking the medical properties to create pharmaceutical grade drugs for people to access at that level. Criminal justice reforms need to address the stigma of arrest for small amounts.

read ... Devastating

6 Months later Am Samoa Congressman Still MIA

Talanei: American Samoa's congressman continues to miss key hearings on Capitol Hill, despite his office's claim two weeks ago, a scheduling conflict kept him from a hearing with the Secretary of State.

KHJ News Wasington correspondent Matt  Matt Kaye reports.

Eni Faleomavaega's Office claimed in a press release on March 13th that an office meeting with American Samoa's Homeland Security Director kept the congressman from a high profile hearing on Ukraine that day with Secretary of State John Kerry.

Congress had a district work period last week...but this week, Faleomavaega also missed a House Foreign Affairs meeting on a 35th anniversary resolution reaffirming US commitment to the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

The 'TRA' is a key area of interest for Faleomavaega, who in 2009 as Asia Pacific Subcommittee chair tangled with the Formosa Association for Public Affairs over the wording of a 30th anniversary 'TRA' Bill.

But this week, the congressman's seat next to California's Brad Sherman stood empty, though Faleomavaega's nameplate was clearly visible on the dais.

read ... MIA

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