Pay Your Money and Take Your Chances!
First Crossover: House Sends 100+ Bills to Senate
WSJ: Jones Act Biggest Danger to US Oil Production
Agony and Ivory
Complete Debunk of Star-Adv Rail Tax Hike Editorial
Star-Adv Editorial: Senate Bill 19, Senate Draft 2, trimmed the extension period proposed in the original bill from 25 years to five, an important change that rightly keeps the focus on completing the original phase of the elevated rail system....
REALITY: This is an old tax-hiker's trick. Caldwell pitched a 25 year extension to make the 5 year extension seem palatable. They're both tax hikes and Caldwell has already announced his intention to come back for more if he gets the 5 year extension.
Star-Adv: as construction costs rapidly rise and revenue sources decline, the project now faces a projected deficit of $910 million....Under the current budget projections, HART would lack sufficient funds to certify contracts that are scheduled to be awarded early next year, causing what are sure to be expensive delays in Honolulu's overheated construction market....
REALITY: Most of the $910M figure is smoke and mirrors accounting designed to create a false sense of crisis and stampede legislators into risking their political future on a GE Tax hike. The first three-station bids are only $3.9M over projection. Honolulu's construction market is not overheated.
Star-Adv: It's telling that a recent Hawaii Poll conducted for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now found rail and traffic to be the primary concerns for Oahu residents, topping homelessness, the economy and education.
REALITY: That was just a Ward Poll. Ward knows how to get the result her customer wants. Meanwhile the People's Pulse poll showed "Economy, Housing Remain at Forefront."
Star-Adv: Although the GET admittedly is a regressive tax, the surcharge taps into spending by residents and visitors alike...
REALITY: The GE Tax is 80-85% paid by local residents. The poor suffer most.
Borreca: Rail transit plan may stink, but we're stuck with it now
REALITY: We can choose to control HART's spending and eliminate the 10% GE Tax skim rather than submitting to another GE Tax hike. We don't have to be trapped by false choices and false information arranged to steer us to a pre-determined outcome.
read ... Predictable Old Boy Tax Hike Trap
Maui News: Pass HB1075 Maui Hospital Partnership
MN: The Finance Committee vote came on the heels of testimony by HHSC Maui Region Chief Executive Officer Wesley Lo that revealed MMMC could see revenue shortfalls of up to $800 million over the next decade.
In our view, this means the Legislature has three choices:
1. Pass the bill and allow public-private partnerships.
2. Commit the state to fully fund the shortfalls.
3. Reject the bill and force MMMC - and other HHSC facilities - to make massive cuts that will dramatically reduce medical services to Neighbor Island and rural Oahu residents. That could mean trips to Oahu for Maui residents for services currently provided at Maui Memorial.
Remember, simply killing the bill is not equivalent to maintaining the status quo. Without a commitment from the state to fund shortfalls, the cuts in services will come rapidly.
The state needs to fix HHSC this year by allowing public-private partnerships.
read ... The Maui News
How ACA Drives Hawaii Insurance Premiums Up
SA: ...The HHA has sought to expand on the lessons from Prepaid to develop a simplified universal system that would reduce total health care cost through administrative savings, not restrictions on care.
Based on the experience of other countries and economic analyses of similar proposals, the fully implemented HHA proposal would likely save around 30 percent of our total health care costs.
Current federal law would prevent full implementation, but by focusing on opportunities for administrative simplification and maximizing risk pooling, substantial savings would still be possible.
However, the Abercrombie administration chose to ignore the HHA's recommendations and pursue the reforms promoted by the Affordable Care Act. All the administrative complexity and obstructions to care in our current fragmented health care "system" have been left in place, while adding a new layer of "Accountable Care Organizations" (ACOs) that propose to push insurance risk onto doctors and hospitals via bundled payments and capitation. To counter the resulting incentive to deny and restrict care, another administrative layer of pay-for-performance (P4P) is being added, relying on complex computerized data controlled by insurance companies and government agencies, to supposedly measure and reward "quality."
None of this works in practice. ACOs are costing more to administer than they can save by reducing unnecessary care.
Transferring insurance risk to providers gives them incentives to game documentation and avoid sicker, more complex patients.
P4P measures have poor validity, don't improve health outcomes and add administrative costs.
Administrative burdens and reduced payments are driving smaller and rural hospitals out of business, driving older doctors out of practice prematurely, and deterring younger doctors from entering primary care, psychiatry and other non-procedural specialties.
We no longer have enough physicians to assure the access to outpatient care required to keep patients out of the ERs and hospitals.
The result is a dramatic increase in health insurance premiums in the past five to six years, since Hawaii's health plans began gearing up for the "transformation" envisioned in the ACA....
read ... Thank Abercrombie and Obama
More Sunshine Violations: OHA Giving Geothermal Co Another $188K?
HTH: Less than two weeks after Hawaii Electric Light Co. selected Ormat Technologies to build the Big Island’s next geothermal power plant, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is declining to answer questions regarding its investment in a company that submitted a competing bid, claiming that information is confidential.
The OHA Board of Trustees voted in April 2013 to invest $1.25 million, with an upfront contribution of $600,000, in the Huena Power Consortium, according to Innovations Development Group, the Native Hawaiian-owned company that formed the geothermal hui and made the funding request.
But the vote was conducted in a closed-door meeting known as an executive session, sources at OHA confirmed, meaning there is no public record of the actual decision.
Citing attorney-client privilege and the matter being discussed behind closed doors, OHA officials repeatedly declined to answer questions regarding the status of the investment or, for that matter, even officially acknowledge a vote took place.
“Officially, OHA cannot comment on information subject to the attorney-client privilege and discussed in executive session,” said Jeremy Kama Hopkins, spokesman for board Chairman Robert Lindsey, in an email to the Tribune-Herald. “Unfortunately, I cannot say more at this time.”...
the vote to approve the investment could have been illegal since it took place behind closed doors.
According to a state Office of Information Practices manual, decisions can only be made in executive session if it would “defeat the purpose of the executive meeting, such as by revealing the matter for which confidentiality may be needed.” ...
Trustee Oswald Stender, who left the board in November after serving 14 years, said he was against the deal but wasn’t allowed to participate in the discussion after IDG complained to the state Ethics Commission.
He said the issue was that he previously worked with IDG to help them secure investors for their New Zealand geothermal projects. Stender said IDG claimed that created a conflict of interest.
“It was kind of a stupid complaint,” he said. “The only reason was to keep me out of the loop because I opposed it.”...
Trustee Haunani Apoliona also was absent during the discussion. She couldn’t be reached for comment....
Huena recently made another funding request to OHA.
On Feb. 24, the board’s Asset and Resource Management Committee voted in favor of providing another $188,000 for pending expenses related to Huena’s geothermal bid.
That same day, HELCO announced it selected Ormat, which owns Puna Geothermal Venture, the state’s only existing geothermal plant, to provide the next 25 megawatts of geothermal power. The project requires the approval of the state Public Utilities Commission.
Hopkins said in an email that the full board has 30 days to schedule the funding request for consideration.
“Let me just add that the item is not on the agenda of (the) full board’s next meeting scheduled for March 12,”
read ... OHA Goes Silent
4 cases lie ahead of decision on HEI's sale
SA: The four cases Iwase wants completed before ruling on the sale are:
» HECO's plan to adopt more renewable energy: Filed in August, the Power Supply Improvement Plan describes HECO's long-term outlook for its grid with a goal of using 65 percent renewable energy in its energy mix by 2030 and using liquefied natural gas as a bridge fuel away from fossil fuels.
» HECO's plan to connect more rooftop solar: The Distributed Generation Interconnection Plan reviews another HECO August filing. This is a more technically focused docket that shows how the utility would allow more customer generation and interconnection, such as rooftop photovoltaic systems. The utility added to this docket in January when it requested to lower the amount it paid customers for the excess energy residential rooftop solar systems send to the grid. In the same request, HECO announced it could double the amount of rooftop solar it allows in areas with high numbers of customer solar systems already connected.
» A review of the way HECO charges customers: The PUC began this investigation in 2013 into the "decoupling mechanism," or the policy that separates the money HECO makes from the amount of energy customers use, which has resulted in a steady increase in rates. Decoupling shows up on HECO bills as a line item labeled "RBA rate adjustment" for revenue balancing account. For a typical bill it is about $13 a month. The PUC could impose more controls on the policy, making it so the rates don't increase automatically.
» HECO's program to pay customers for allowing the utility to shift customer energy use during certain times of the day: The fourth docket on Iwase's list is a review the commission filed in 2007 to look at HECO's "demand response program" that offers payments to utility customers who allow the utility to manage all or a portion their home's energy use during certain times of the day.
These dockets need to be moved because they outline Hawaii's energy landscape and would have an impact on how the PUC would review the NextEra case, Iwase said.
read ... PUC on HEI
Bill on DOE statewide audit set for a vote on Tuesday
KITV: And a bill for a statewide audit of the Department of Education goes to the House for a vote on Tuesday....
HB1352 Text, Status "Requires the Auditor to conduct a comprehensive financial, management, and program audit of the Department of Education. Appropriates funds."
read ... Audit the DoE
Clerk Arrested from Corrupt Charter School
SA: ...A former school accounting clerk arrested last month for theft and money laundering allegedly used a Halau Lokahi Charter School bank card to rack up more than $5,200 worth of Amazon.com purchases — including several dozen rolls of design-printed duct tape — that were shipped to her Aiea home, according to court records obtained by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Investigators with the state Attorney General's Office subpoenaed records for 156 online purchases that Rochelle Marie Tavares made using a Bank of Hawaii debit card issued to her longtime boyfriend, Adam K. "Kealii" Bright, a former teacher at the school and son of Halau Lokahi founder Laara Allbrett.
The records reveal more details about the state's ongoing investigation into suspected theft, money laundering, illegal ownership of a business, falsification of business records and tampering of government documents by former school officials.
Tavares' Amazon purchases are separate from $102,000 in school expenses throughout 2013 and 2014 flagged as suspicious by the state Public Charter School Commission, and which prompted a raid of the Kalihi campus in November by the attorney general....
Investigators flagged nearly 400 "suspicious" purchases made with Bright's debit card throughout 2013 and 2014. The charges included purchases at various gas stations, restaurants and a Kalihi karaoke bar; cash withdrawals; payments for traffic tickets; and Apple iTunes purchases....
Tavares said that before working at the school she had no accounting experience but was "qualified for the position because she was able to pay the bills at her house," according to court documents....
read ... Not Formally Charged Yet
Fixation on IS semantics casts doubt on Gabbard
Shapiro: Fox News did a fawning, one-sided profile claiming the "knives are out" for Gabbard, notwithstanding that Obama has done nothing to retaliate. (Read the article at http://fxn.ws/1LUaoyy.)
A less complimentary profile on the news site Alternet described Gabbard as Islamophobic and attributed it to her close ties to India's Hindu nationalist party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been criticized for harsh treatment of India's Muslim minority. (Read the article at http://bit.ly/1w2aGfc.)
Gabbard's family is prominent in a local Krishna offshoot group and she proudly promotes herself as the first Hindu member of Congress. Her recent criticism of Obama on Islamic ideology started after a trip to India.
According to Alternet, Gabbard fought fiercely in Congress in 2013 against a bipartisan resolution calling on India to improve its human rights situation and has received significant campaign donations from Hindu-Americans who support the nationalist party.
Gabbard's backers cry "haters" whenever her religious affiliation is brought up, but it's fair inquiry if she's making a name for herself by slamming the religion of others.
read ... Shapiro
George Awo Being Promoted as Alternative to Ching for DLNR?
SA: One of his last cases as chief was the December arrest of four Molokai fishermen who are charged with robbery and terroristic threatening after allegedly boarding a vessel occupied by several Oahu divers. The fishermen reportedly felt the divers were raiding the local fishery. The case is pending.
Similar tensions have erupted between fishermen on Niihau and Kauai, and Awo expects more conflicts as largely Hawaiian areas bristle against laws that say the state's natural resources belong to all.
"More and more communities are saying, ‘Stop, wait,'" he said. "On Molokai they view their resources as part of their subsistence culture and definitely connected to their survival. They have high unemployment, fewer job opportunities and a greater understanding of and appreciation that ‘What we gather sustains our families, therefore, we are different.' And so when people from the outside come in that do not understand or appreciate that lifestyle, there are these rising tensions: ‘If you don't get it, we're going to take the law into our hands, and we're going to help you understand that these are the consequences of your actions.'"
It is for state conservation officers, he said, to respect these growing frustrations while making it clear that unlawful behavior will not be tolerated. "Instead, we encourage all communities to work within the law to change the law to better serve their unique interests and challenges."
As an example, he cited the creation of the state's first community-based subsistence fishing area in Haena, Kauai. Over the course of more than eight years, community leaders, fishermen and cultural practitioners worked with DLNR to develop rules protecting the fishery and traditional activities while recognizing Haena's waters as a public resource.
Also during his short time as chief, a community fisheries enforcement unit was activated for Maui's north shore waters with seed money from the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation and Conservation International.
SA: Awo Opposes Chang
read ... Fluff Piece With Obvious Intent
Rep Sam Kong Encourages Prenatal Testing for Down Syndrome
HNN: ..."Ninety percent of children supposedly with Down syndrome are being aborted in the United States," said Garret Hashimoto of the Aloha Pregnancy Care and Counseling Center.
Eddie and Shani Naleieha are the parents of six-year-old Sammie, who has Down syndrome. "We felt like we were pressured to give up our baby with an abortion," said Eddie Naleieha. "They were trying to push us that way."
"We were told that she would never amount to anything, our lvies would be miserable because she would have many health issues, and she'd have many delays, and she would be a burden to our family," said Shani Naleieha, who's now with Down Syndrome Ohana Hawaii. "And we told the doctors no, we're keeping her."
The Naleieha family and others are supporting a house resolution asking the Health Department to require that all pregnant women be given information about screening and tests for Down syndrome, and where to get help if the tests come back positive. It was introduced by state Rep. Sam Kong, whose wife had been tested when she was pregnant.
"So hopefully in the future, doctors will disseminate the correct information to all parties," said Kong....
read ... Down Syndrome
Bumbling State Prosecutors Make Third Run at Deedy
SA: The judge in the Christopher Deedy murder trials told the lawyers in the case that she has a stress-related ailment and would "have no problem" with another judge presiding over a critical pretrial hearing originally scheduled for later this month.
Circuit Judge Karen Ahn presided over Deedy's first two trials.
The first trial ended with a hung jury. The second ended after another jury found the U.S. State Department special agent not guilty of murder in the shooting death of Kollin Elderts, but deadlocked on the lesser manslaughter charge.
Ahn scheduled a third trial for September, this time for manslaughter.
Deedy's lawyers filed papers asking her to dismiss the case last September after the second mistrial.
They claim that the state has already had two chances, with substantially the same evidence it plans to present a third time, to convict Deedy but failed. Deedy's lawyers also claim that the state's decision not to pursue manslaughter in the first trial and the not-guilty verdict to murder in the second trial preclude prosecutors from taking Deedy to trial a third time.
read ... Judge Stressed
Oregon Governor Signs Bill Dissolving Obamacare Exchange
LAT: A bill dissolving Cover Oregon, the state's dysfunctional health insurance exchange, has been signed by Gov. Kate Brown.
The measure, which had bipartisan support, transfers responsibilities for the Oregon exchange to the state Department of Consumer and Business Services.
The decision was announced in a nine-word tweet from Brown's account, which said simply: "This afternoon I signed Senate Bill 1 into law." She signed the legislation Friday.
Cover Oregon was plagued by problems almost from its onset. No Oregonian was ever able to enroll online in a private plan under the Affordable Care Act because the state exchange never had a functioning website, forcing insurance seekers to file paper applications.
read ... The LA Times