Mina Morita Out as PUC Chair
DoE: "We Expect Lower Test Scores"
Study: Obamacare Drives Up Medical Costs, But Hawaii Prepaid Protects State
Sen Jeff Flake to Headline Hawaii Lincoln Day Dinner
Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted January 12, 2015
Management: No Takeaways in Proposed Contract, but ILWU Rejects
Omidyar's Pay Pal Refuses Service to Gun Stores
HGEA Boss Admits Private Sector Unions Give Hospital Workers Better Contract than HGEA
PBN: Advocates believe a proposed partnership between Hawaii Pacific Health and the state hospitals in Maui County could save taxpayers money and improve health care, but the union representing state employees remains wary....
"Under the circumstances of a partnership there's a good chance they'll do well, and that way there will be no further [state] subsidy needed in the future for that particular county," she said, noting that Maui has a relatively balanced mix of insured and uninsured patients....
Union leaders question what control the state would retain in the proposed partnership and whether taxpayers would wind up having to pay to support private operations. (Quick IQ Test: True or False -- HGEA Cares about taxpayers?)
"It is an acquisition, not a partnership," Hawaii Government Employees Association Executive Director Randy "F*** You" Perreira said. "What we've heard directly from HPH is that they're seeking a long-term lease where they take control of operations and employees, so the employees would cease to be state employees (Translation: Cease to pay HGEA dues to meeeeee) and work for HPH, and the partnership would be us taxpayers continue to subsidize operations through some kind of appropriation from the Legislature." (A declining subsidy, as opposed to the increasing subsidy forced on HHSC by the HGEA and UPW contracts.)
The union is also concerned about how workers would be affected, and opposed partnership legislation last year. Under a private deal, union leaders fear that employees could lose job security, retirement benefits and wages. Perreira noted that not only does HGEA represent Maui Memorial Medical Center employees, it also represents many people who receive health care from the HHSC hospital. He said it is unclear what the impact would be on services. (Who could possibly be dumb enough to buy Perreira's implication that services would get worse?)
"Obviously, HPH is a great organization; (especially when contrasted to HGEA-infested operations like the Hawaii State Hospital) they provide top-quality health care, and what the people on Maui hope for is the expansion of services available," Perreira said. "If down the road HPH comes to the same realization that a lot of us had, that it's darn expensive to provide health care on the Neighbor Islands, then we're captive to paying more, and frankly the tax base on Oahu is going to pay for this." (But the HPH won't be captive to you, Randy. That's what this is really all about and everybody knows it.)
The Maui hospitals are not the only HHSC facilities in financial trouble. As a whole, the HHSC's 13-hospital network is facing a $48 million budget deficit for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. HHSC hospitals serve rural areas on the Neighbor Islands, and a lack of funding could spur hospital closings or reduced services.... (Which is OK with Randy because he won't be blamed by his opponents within the union if the jobs are lost this way.)
In November, HHSC laid off 35 workers as part of a statewide reduction in the work force. The second phase has not been discussed yet, according to Lance Segawa, HHSC chief executive director of operations and planning.
Last month, the HHSC Oahu Region warned that it would have to close one of its two facilities if funding is not secured....
HHSC is looking to negotiate with the state Labor Division about (HGEA's ridiculous) work rules, Rosen said, noting that she sees room for adjustments in terms of salary versus hourly payment, sick leave or paid time off, and health benefit cost-sharing.
"Some of the work rules that apply to all the government workers do make it difficult in a 24-7 operation like a hospital, (a gift for understatement) so it's one of the ways I'm hoping we can have some collective bargaining adjustments around those hospital employees to help hospitals do better on their bottom line," she said. (IQ Test for wanna-be union bosses: Can you win an election by explaining to union members that Perreira's intransience is why HGEA is losing all these members? Perreira's entire strategy rests on his opponents' failure to grasp this simple point. Pathetic, eh?)
But Perreira said he does not see a lot of room for cost-cutting. (See. Told you so!)
He said the cost of public and private employees are roughly comparable, (Reality: HGEA members cost more but earn less.) noting that public benefit costs are expensive, (Uh huh) but public employees pay a "tremendous" amount toward their own health care, while private employees do not (Wow. Sounds like a good reason to decertify HGEA and go with a real union like Hawaii Nurses Association.)
He said HHSC officials would like to negotiate work rules, but have not been willing to pay the higher wages that private employees receive. (End of Semester Final Exam Pass or Fail: Do you believe him?)
read ... Perreira Flails Around Wildly, Lodges Foot Deeper in Mouth
Rail Ends at Ala Moana, But Will Tax Go on Forever?
CB: Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is being disingenuous when he claims extending a rail surcharge doesn't amount to asking the Legislature for a tax increase....
In a recent news conference, Caldwell denied that a permanent rail surcharge would be a tax hike. “We pay it right now and we’ve been paying it since 2007,” said Caldwell, “so it’s not an increase in the tax, it’s just continuing it beyond Dec. 31 of 2022.”
That’s nonsense. Playing with words. If Oahu residents were promised they would be free of the tax after 2022 and the tax is continued beyond that date, it is a tax hike.
“Of course it’s a tax hike,” says Republican Sen. Sam Slom. “If the tax is supposed to end and it doesn’t, it’s an increase.”
read ... Rail Ends
Danger: Legislature, governor seem to get along
Borreca: If good friends make good laws, we are setting up a mighty productive legislative session....
Now as governor, Ige is proving to be the rallying point for a somewhat strange sense of friendship instead of the expected tension between the legislative and executive branch.
"I know David. We see eye to eye on almost all things," says Senate President Donna Mercado Kim....
House GOP Leader Beth Fukumoto Chang said that the legislative fights with Abercrombie mean that "it can't get any worse than it was with the previous administration.
"He seems to be a very reasonable man," Fukumoto Chang said.
As evidence of his bipartisan nature, she pointed to a bill supporting low-income tax credits that she wrote and that Ige passed out of his committee when he was Ways and Means Chairman.
"Everyone said it was DOA when it hit his committee, but he approved it, so it shows he is willing to work with Republicans and that is a good sign."
read ... Danger
Aaron Johanson to Beg Oahu Democrats' Permission to Join Up
PR: The meeting before the Oahu County Committee's Executive Committee is scheduled for 6 p.m., Friday at a location to be determined....
Rules adopted by the party since the last lawmaker switch in 2007 stipulate elected officials wishing to join the Democratic Party must first go before their county's executive committee, which then makes a recommendation to the State Central Committee.
Oahu County Chairman Bixby Ho said Monday much of the feedback he had received on Johanson’s switch was positive, though insiders said some member were upset Johanson was able to keep his seat on the House Finance Committee, rather than having that seat go to a more senior Democrat....
read ... Making his case
Two State Board Members Fight Release of Financial Disclosure Statements
CB: Sandi Kato-Klutke, a member of the Agribusiness Development Corporation, and Chad McDonald, who serves on the Land Use Commission, have asked the Hawaii Supreme Court to keep their financial disclosure statements confidential pending an appeal.
The Hawaii Attorney General’s office, which is representing them in their official capacities, filed the motion for a writ of mandamus last week. It marks the latest development in a lawsuit Civil Beat, represented by the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest, filed in September seeking the release of the financial disclosure statements of the current members of the ADC, LUC and University of Hawaii Board of Regents.
read ... Secrecy
Loan Turned to Grant: Now Non-profits Want Same Deal ORI Got
CB: The city forgave a $1.2 million loan to ORI. Now four others want their loans zeroed out, too. Federal officials are concerned the city isn't playing fair.
(But) ORI gave more than $100,000 over the past 16 years to political campaigns. (Did the others do this? You can't play if you don't pay!)
...other nonprofits that have been seeking loan forgiveness say their requests have been largely met with silence from the city.
Terry Brooks, president of Housing Solutions, said two or three years ago he asked the city to forgive two loans — a $1.27 million loan that it received for the Edwin Thomas Building, which has been rented out to Mental Health Kokua to serve mentally ill homeless, and a $2 million loan for Weinberg Hale, which provides low-income housing for the mentally ill.
Initially, the city wouldn’t provide him with a copy of its loan forgiveness policy, said Brooks. “We finally got an ‘under-the-counter’ copy,” he said....
Ewa Housing Foundation is asking the city to forgive a $1.7 million loan for its D.E. Thompson Village Housing project, which provides housing for elderly and disabled residents....
Mental Health Kokua is asking the city to forgive a $312,000 loan for its Sierra House, which serves the mentally ill. Greg Payton, the nonprofit’s executive director, said he hadn’t heard back from the city on its application since it was submitted in 2013....
The Arc in Hawaii has asked the city to relieve it of $3.4 million in loans for three housing complexes that serve adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities....
read ... Give them a dime, they ask for a dollar
HPD Learned How to Milk Presidential Overtime Early
SA: The overtime costs incurred by the Honolulu Police Department to provide round-the-clock protection for President Barack Obama, his family and others traveling with him during his just-completed Christmas vacation have risen dramatically since the Hawaii native began spending the holidays here.
In his first Hawaii vacation following the 2008 presidential election, HPD reported overtime costs of $107,000.
During his seventh Hawaii vacation last month, HPD reported nearly $278,000 in overtime costs in addition to the police officers' regular salaries.
read ... Tab rises for Obama overtime
Bag Ban Allows Thicker Plastic Bags -- Prohibits Biodegradable Bags
SA: What is the good of a plastic bag ban that doesn't really ban plastic bags?
Honolulu taxpayers might well be pondering that very issue. And they ought to be asking the Honolulu City Council whether the new ordinance will accomplish its goal — to reduce the amount of plastic in the environment — when it takes effect July 1.
It may become clearer in the coming months how the ban on single-use shopping bags will play out, once the city Department of Environmental Services gets some feedback from retailers about how they plan to implement the ordinance. Of course, some retailers and their advocates, who have opposed the ordinance since it passed in 2012, may continue to press for changes, complicating matters further.
But based on experiences in Hawaii's other counties, it appears likely that many shops here would simply substitute a tote that's allowed under the ordinance: a thicker plastic bag that's suitable for reuse.
And unless there are changes to the law to incentivize a bring-your-own ethic among customers, Oahu could be simply substituting one type of bag for another.
The original ordinance was amended in 2014 to eliminate "biodegradable" bags from the allowed list and require instead that the substitutes be certifiable as "compostable."
The amendment left intact the exemption for plastic bags measuring at least 2.25 mils in thickness (a "mil" being a thousandth of an inch). Retailers are not required to charge a fee for these bags, which means customers won't feel driven to change their habits.
read ... Encourage use of reusable bags
Appointed AG: Hawaii Alone and Undemocratic as Yet Another State Goes for Elections
TT: Tennessee is the only state where the state Supreme Court appoints the attorney general, said Marjorie Thorp of the National Association of Attorneys General. In comparison 43 states elect their attorney general, five states — Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Wyoming — allow the governor to appoint an attorney general, and in Maine the legislature chooses the attorney general via secret ballot, Thorp said.
read ... Hawaii Alone and Undemocratic
Forbes: Alt Energy Pressure Drives Utility Mergers
Forbes: But what about the physical distance between Florida and Hawaii? This is “more of a strategic transaction to develop a successful regulated business model in high distributed-generation regions, lessons (that could) then be applied to other acquisitions on the mainland,” says Bill Kemp, founding partner for consulting firm Enovation Partners in Florida, in an interview.
Both companies have a built a large renewables business, he adds. “Now they want to find a way to reduce overall customer bills while they upgrade their generation fleet and put in smart grid technologies, while learning to operate ‘micro-grids,’” that are small-scale power grids.
NextEra’s expertise comes mostly from building utility-scale solar plants outside of its territory whereas Hawaiian Electric’s know-how comes from the rooftop solar and micro-grid business, which in lay terms is distributed, or onsite, generation. And that’s the business in which the Florida utility thinks that it can build in those areas of the country that are rolling out distributed assets....
NextEra’s bid for Hawaiian Electric is part of a broader utility trend: FirstEnergy Corporation’s purchase of Allegheny Energy in 2010 for about $4.7 billion and Duke Energy’s marriage with Progress Energy in 2012 in a deal valued at about $25 billion. And, NRG Energy’s buyout of GenOn last year for $4.2 billion. Exelon Corp., meantime, has a $6.7 billion deal going on right now with Pepco Holdings.
PriceWaterHouseCoopers says in one of its reports on mergers and acquisitions in the utility sector that it anticipates this movement to continue. Beyond the synergistic opportunities, it says that the eco-pressures will only increase....
read ... Forbes
Sen Green Proposes 30% E-Cig Tax
KITV: The bill would ban the use of e-cigarettes everywhere traditional cigarettes are banned, add a 30 percent sales tax that would go back to public health and up the age of purchase to 21.
UH Cancer Center's Dr. Thomas Wills found 17 percent of ninth- and 10th-graders used e-cigarettes. Another 12 percent use electronic and traditional.
Wills said teens are bombarded with marketing and sales. He added that e-cigarettes are easy to get in Hawaii, and teens are turning to the cheaper alternative with traditional cigarettes so costly.
"That's also why the cost of e-cigs should be higher," Green said.
(Translation: E-Cigs are cutting in to Medical Marijuana sales.)
Background: Oxycontin Contributions: Clayton Hee, Josh Green, Karl Rhoads and HB466
read ... Tax Hike
Rep Evans: HHSC May Request $120-$220M
BIVN: Governor David Ige is concerned about Hawaii’s fiscal situation, Representative Cindy Evans told the Waimea Community Association. As the former chair of Senate Ways and Means, Ige is aware of the state’s unfunded liabilities, and Evans expects the new governor will take a conservative approach this session.
Hawaii Health Systems Corp may request funding to the tune of $120 million to $220 million, Evans believes, since the hospitals must pay their workforce the collective bargaining wage and benefit increases negotiated by the prior administration.
During Ige’s campaign, “the loudest, and the most complaints were from the Big Island” Evans said the new governor told her. Evans said she replied, “I dont believe the people at the departments were listening.” Evans said Ige plans to have his department heads delegate the day to day operations in order to conduct better outreach in the community.
read ... Rep Evans
50 percent of young victims of fatal crashes in 9 US states used alcohol or marijuana
SC: Keyes and colleagues analyzed 7,191 fatal accidents involving drivers between the ages of 16 and 25 from 1999 to 2011 who died within one hour of the crash in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington State and West Virginia. These nine states all routinely perform toxicological tests on the blood or urine specimens of drivers who die in car crashes. Information was drawn from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a census of fatal traffic crashes occurring within the U.S. More than half of the crashes (54.7 percent) for the period between 1999 to 2011 occurred in California.
Overall, 50.3% of the deceased tested positive for alcohol, marijuana or both. Of these, 36.8 percent were under the influence of alcohol, 5.9 percent used only marijuana and 7.6 percent used both substances.
The researchers further tested whether there were any changes in patterns of alcohol and marijuana use among those aged 21 years and older who were legally allowed to consume alcohol, versus those less than 21. It was found that alcohol consumption indeed increased by 14 percent, but such prominent changes in marijuana use were not seen.
read ... Science Codex
Medicaid reimbursement for pediatric dental services not keeping up with inflation
DB: They reported that private dental insurance charges have kept up with overall inflation in all 50 states and DC, with North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Wisconsin experiencing the largest increases and Hawaii, Nevada, Washington, and Colorado experiencing the smallest....
North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Wisconsin have had the largest increases in real or dental-service-inflation-adjusted charges. Conversely, Hawaii, Nevada, Washington, and Colorado have seen the largest declines.
read ... Dental Services
UH nursing, dental hygiene student fees could double next year
HNN: University of Hawaii nursing and dental hygiene students could see their professional fees double next school year, adding $2,000 to their annual education costs in some cases.
If the UH Board of Regents approves a proposal by the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene, UH nursing students will have their professional fees go up next fall from $1,000 to $2,000 per semester, on top of tuition that's been increasing for years.
"It's a little bit shocking because it's doubling the amount so it's big for all of us," said Sammy Kaiser, a first-year nursing student in the three-year program with nearly 300 students.
Jinny Agpaoa, another first-year UH nursing student, said, "I know it's unfair for a lot of the students who are full-time parents, full-time students and full-time workers, so it will be a lot on their plate, in addition to studying."
Meanwhile: Search begins for new UH athletics director
read ... Fees Double
Debunking Anti-GMO Ignorance
Kauai Counter-Protesters: "I choose a pig and a cow over a haole any day"
KE: ...Someone left a clever comment on a post I wrote last week about the push to kill the Mahaulepu dairy, which includes a lawsuit by the Hyatt claiming its guests will be forced to endure biting flies and an unbearable stench: "Bad for marketing if the Hyatt loses. Will they tell their guests what they say in the lawsuit?"
On a related note, I heard that an Aha Moku meeting, held last week to select a moku representative for Mahaulepu and establish a position on the dairy, attracted about 60 people, including 15 guys wearing tee-shirts with this slogan: "I choose a pig and a cow over a haole any day."...
read ... Kauai Devolves into Anarchy
Anti-Agriculture? Hooser Pushes Bill Banning Smoke, Dust
KGI: “This has been an issue for years and is long overdue addressing,” said tax cheat and Councilman Gary Hooser, who authored the proposal outlined in Bill 2573. “Many other communities around the nation, not just Maui, have similar issues. It is unfortunate we have to deal with these types of situations, but it is essentially a public health issue.”
The bill would make it illegal and a public nuisance for “any person, firm, or corporation in the County of Kauai to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause” smoke, soot, poisonous gases, dirt, dust or debris of any kind to escape into the open air that can injure a person’s health or damage property. (Hmmm. You mean like from a farm, Gary?)
Penalties for violating the proposed law include a maximum $1,000 fine, a maximum 30-day jail term, or both.
“If people believe and can prove their health is being harmed by the burning, they would report it to the police and the prosecutor’s office,” Hooser wrote in an email.
Some residents and officials, however, say the law may cause more harm than good.
Abbey-MacDonald’s neighbor who owns a wood-burning fireplace, Stanley Gonsalves, worries the new proposal will put an additional burden on his family.
The 72-year-old veteran said he and his wife have received close to 80 complaints over the years and have, as a result, had officials from the Kauai Police Department, Kauai Fire Department, Kauai County Council, County Planning Department, and state Department of Health visit and call his home on multiple occasions. (80 complaints: That's a lot of bad karma, Gary.)
Many of those claims, however, were determined to be unfounded, said Gonsalves, adding he burns wood to keep warm and alleviate knee ailments that affect him and his wife....
WHT: Recycling Industry Profiteers Protest Waste Incinerator
read ... Polluted Karma
Sen Ruderman 'Excited' About Pie in the Sky Blimp for Puna
HTH: A state senator says an idea floated by a Hilo attorney to use a helium-filled airship (Dubbed the USS Pie) to take passengers over active lava could be a viable solution if Kilauea volcano’s June 27 flow crosses Highway 130.
“I believe the project is legit and the technology is legit. Whether it will happen here or not is certainly yet to be seen,” Sen. Russell Ruderman, a Puna Democrat, said Monday. (Translation it may be Pie -- but it is not yet Pie-in-the-Sky)
Ruderman confirmed he was contacted “several months ago” by lawyer Steve Strauss about a cabled dirigible system pulled by computer-automated winches to ferry people back and forth over the lava should the state highway be inundated by the active flow that has threatened the Pahoa area for months. “I fully support it; I’m excited by the idea,” he said. (They were sharing the same bong when the idea came to them.)
While the idea might seem a tad pie-in-the-sky, it’s not just a flight of fancy, Strauss told the Tribune-Herald....
It will take about $4 million to get the project going, Strauss said, and he’s seeking private investors and possible government grants. (Maybe Ruderman could mortgage his 'Natural' Food Stores....)
read ... Pie not in the sky yet
Filthy Biomess Plant is Top 'Clean' Energy Project in Hawaii
PR: A large Big Island biomass plant, which resumed construction last month, is the top clean energy project in Hawaii, according to a list released by the state this month.
Hu Honua Bioenergy's 21.5-megawatt biomass plant jumped three spots to the top spot, replacing the Hawaii State Department of Transportation and Hawaiian Electric Co.'s Honolulu International Airport Power Facility 10-megawatt biofuel project, which last held onto the No. 1 position.
The Hawaii's Clean Energy Leaders list, which was updated in January, ranks the top 40 or so projects in the state that demonstrate progress toward becoming commercial enterprises.
read ... Biomess
California, Michigan Companies are only Hawaii Energy Excelerator to Receive Funding
PBN: Michigan-based Spider9, which develops smart controllers that make large battery systems more reliable and profitable, said that it has reached an agreement with Samsung to use its proprietary energy operating system technology.
This patented technology was created to improve the reliability, useful life and commercial value of battery systems used for stationary energy storage applications.
Spider9 was one of 17 startups named to the Honolulu-based Energy Excelerator's 2015 cohort, which will partner with local businesses to address energy challenges across multiple industries in the state.
California-based Stem Inc., an energy storage and data analytics startup, said it received investments from Constellation Technology Ventures and Total Energy Ventures totaling $27 million.
Stem is one of six Energy Excelerator Growth companies that were chosen last year from more than 200 firms, created a technology that helps businesses reduce their electricity expenses without changing day-to-day operations through a system that alternates between battery power and grid power to optimize energy costs.
Its technology also helps utilities access the installed batteries to help balance the grid.
read ... About Your Tax Dollars at Work
Push is on to Make Hospitals Responsible for Home Caregivers
KITV: Legislators, hospital groups and community members were busy at the State Capitol Monday hammering out ways to assist Hawaii's caregivers.
Some said caregivers are not getting enough training from hospitals to properly manage medication and care for family members who are discharged. A number of hospitals said there is assistance available, though.
"We know many caregivers are overwhelmed by this and they are just asking for some basic information on how to provide that care for them," AARP volunteer Audrey Suga-Nakagawa said. "And we know this will reduce the readmissions to hospitals."
In Hawaii alone there are 10,000 caregivers.
The working group found that while there are some resources at hospitals and in the community for family caregivers, more can be done to assist those who need the help.
SA: Task force balks at resolution to make hospitals teach kin how to care for elders
read ... Responsibility
Manoa burglary victim questions why officer didn't stop suspects
HNN: The burglars broke in at 11:55 Saturday night. The alarm company alerted police. By 12:11 am the first officer drove up.
"She looked like she came into the restaurant with high beams on already. Her headlights were shining right here, bright as day, right to the door. The burglar was right in the kitchen still trying to break open the register," said Haruo.
Meanwhile the officer didn't get out of the car until 42 seconds after arriving.
"She even said she saw the burglar come out of the door and take off," said Haruo. "Something should have been done. She could have said something and tried to stop the guy."
In a separate incident the Asia Manoa Chinese Restaurant across the street was also broken into recently. The window crooks smashed is still boarded up.
"Burglaries have been happening in Manoa Valley within the past couple of months consecutively and you see the burglar walk right out of the door and you do nothing. It's very frustrating," said Haruo.
Today Honolulu Police personnel say they weren't able to speak with the officer involved, but the police report does say she saw a man run out of the restaurant and then radioed other officers.
read ... Manoa burglary victim questions why officer didn't stop suspects