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Friday, March 13, 2015
March 13, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:37 PM :: 4406 Views

Council on Revenues Increases Growth Forecast by 1% for Fiscal Year 2015

Undercover Video: Oahu and Maui Planned Parenthood agree to abort girls based on gender

IRS Seeks Hawaii Volunteers for Tax Panel

Fitch: Debt, Retiree Benefits Key to Honolulu Bond Ratings

WAM Chair Sen Tokuda Paid Off by Rail Lobbyist and Inouye Institute

SA: The chairwoman of the state Senate's powerful Ways and Means Committee, which plays a key role in deciding who gets state funding, has been serving as a paid consultant for the Daniel K. Inouye Institute.

Financial disclosure forms filed with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission this year show that Sen. Jill Tokuda (D, Kailua-Kaneohe) has consulted on behalf of the Institute for its "program development and execution."

Tokuda maintains that there's no conflict in her dual roles.

On its website, the Inou­ye Institute lists as its top priority the "establishment and construction of the Daniel K. Inouye Center for Democratic Leadership on the University of Hawaii Manoa campus."

The state has set aside $10 million to start that project, but UH regents and the institute's executive director have concerns with design and construction right now, particularly given the various fiscal challenges that UH faces....

Tokuda's client on the Inou­ye Institute work is Kaimana Hila, which is Sabas' company and the vehicle through which she serves as the institute's director, she said. The firm also does some contract lobbying work on behalf of the pro-rail group Move Oahu Forward, Sabas added....

Ethics Commission Executive Director Les Kondo called her after learning that she had already spoken with his staff, Tokuda said, and he recommended that she disclose it "to be safe" now that she's Ways and Means chairwoman.

read ... Still Doing it the Inouye Way

Legislators grumble on rail costs but roll over too easily

Borreca: The newly-minted Windward Senate Democrat Gil Riviere explained the entire issue facing legislators voting on the city's over-budget heavy rail project.

"This should not be an argument about pro-rail or anti-rail. I'm not opposed to the completion of the project. I am opposed to giving them whatever they want," said Riviere in a floor speech this week.

Riviere was one of three votes against the Senate version of the rail bill, SB 19....

Over in the House, another version of the rail bailout bill was also moving, with a larger flutter of no votes.

After listening to weeks of testimony from city transit officials and Mayor Kirk Caldwell, it turned out that this Legislature was the Legislature that says "Yes."

The proposals that passed may not have been blank checks, but they showed that the state is not going to kill rail.

The actions are important because they demonstrate to all the rail critics, who continue to argue that the project must stop now, that they will not get their wish.

The city plan may be flawed, but it will not die because of a critical Legislature....

The Senate and House attack the deficit from different angles.

The House chops the increase in half and leaves open for discussion how long that increase would last.

The Senate extends it for five more years and then calls for a bunch of audits.

HART is directed by the Senate to explain how the rail will mesh with transit-oriented development, projected population growth and "how each rail station will be integrated with surrounding buildings and structures."

In other words, give them a few promises and show the Legislature some drawings of rail stations and you get the money.

The Legislature could have said, "No more money; go make all the promised transit-oriented developers show some real money."

Or the Legislature could have said this is the time for the still-silent Honolulu City Council to get on the record with a resolution saying the city will be responsible for cost overruns.

Instead, the Legislature's thinking on rail financing winds up like that often-quoted line from "Pretty Woman," where Julia Roberts, playing a hooker, tells client Richard Gere:

"I appreciate this whole seduction thing you've got going on here, but let me give you a tip: I'm a sure thing."

read ... Roll Over

Senate committee votes 5-2 against Carleton Ching, Nomination Heads for Full Senate

KHON: The state Senate Committee on Water and Land voted Thursday against Gov. David Ige’s controversial nomination to lead the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The committee voted 5-2 against Carleton Ching to chair the department.

Senators Laura Thielen, Gil Riviere, Russell Ruderman and Maile Shimabukuro voted against confirmation with Sen. Les Ihara voting against the confirmation “with reservations.”

Senators Brickwood Galuteria and Sam Slom voted for confirmation.

Afterward, Ige said he stands by his choice and will allow the nomination to head to the full Senate for a final vote.

read ... 2-5, but really 3-4

Senate confirms attorney general, public safety director

KHON: State senators unanimously voted Thursday to confirm Douglas Chin as attorney general of the Department of Attorney General....

Senators also voted by unanimous consent to confirm Nolan Espinda as director of the Department of Public Safety....

SA: The new director of the state Department of Human Services wants to expand the conversation

read ... Two Confirmed

Autonomy: Panel trims $72M from UH budget, Tells Administration to Decide How to Use it

SA: The House Finance Committee cut about $72 million this week from the University of Hawaii's budget request for the upcoming fiscal year.

The House draft of the state budget includes a little more than $369 million in general funds for the 10-campus system, a 16 percent decrease from the approximately $441 million the university had wanted. It was also less than the $427.5 million Gov. David Ige proposed in his executive budget, which lawmakers used as a starting point.

The Finance Committee also changed the way funds would be allocated to the university, electing to give UH a lump sum.

In previous years, the Legislature would divvy up the university's budget among the four-year campuses, the medical school, community colleges and systemwide support costs.

House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke said the consolidation will allow UH to determine the needs of each campus and provide "a truer form of autonomy." ...

Lassner has said the university drafted a budget that assumes no tuition increases, although a 7 percent hike approved in 2011 is scheduled to take effect in the fall. UH officials have said any decision to adjust tuition up or down won't happen until after the Legislature finalizes the budget in May.

The university in the last fiscal year collected $362 million in tuition and fees systemwide, up from $349 million the year before, representing nearly 42 percent of total operating revenues.

PBN: House budget proposal could give University of Hawaii fiscal autonomy

SA: AD search is nearing a recommendation

read ... Budget Autonomy

SB1219: DLIR Hands off Independent Contractors

MN: In an effort to qualify independent contractors in law to avoid incorrect Department of Labor & Industrial Relations rulings, we have been working to modify Chapter 383-6 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes....

...We are working hard to correct how DLIR looks at independent contractors, to recognize them as legitimate businesses that choose not to be employees and to realize that those who hire them are "clients," not "employers." Even the dictionary, under the old master and servant language, notes that: "A servant is also distinguishable from an independent contractor, who is an individual entering into an agreement to perform a particular job through the exercise of his or her own methods and is not subject to the control of the individual by whom he or she was hired."

Senate Bill 1219 crossed over to the House....

read ... SB1219

Maui News: Legislators Get Shield Law Wrong Again

MN: Hawaii used to have a very good Shield Law (Act 210) that protected journalists from having to reveal confidential sources.

The bill lapsed after amendments offered to it during the 2013 legislative session changed and weakened it to the point where media outlets withdrew support for making the measure permanent.

As we quoted media attorney Jeff Portnoy in an editorial then, "My clients would be better off with no bill. I'd rather go to court and argue all the cases than have this."

Well, the Legislature is back at work on a Shield Law again this year and, once again, they are getting it wrong. House Bill 295, House Draft 1, as amended, could require journalists to turn over unpublished information. This is a shield?

read ... Shield Law

Lawmakers call for audit of Animal Quarantine Station

KHON: State lawmakers want to take a hard look at the Animal Quarantine Station in Halawa Valley.

Their interest comes on the heels of a petition drive by pet owners concerned with conditions there.

The station takes in 200 to 400 animals a month. Quarantine rules are in place to protect against rabies.

The state Department of Agriculture runs the quarantine program. The state says the station looked after 14,339 animals last year.

Some animals can be released in a few days if they can be certified disease-free, but others will have to stay for the full 120-day quarantine period.

The station operates on fees it collects. Last year, the staff collected $3 million.

House Resolution 35 calls for an audit of the operations and procedures at the station, and lists a number of concerns including the condition of the facility and the sensitivity training of the staff....

The hearing on HR35 will be held on Friday at 9:30 a.m. in conference room 312 at the State Capitol.

read ... Audit

Soft on Crime: ICA Grants 'Lethal Time Bomb' Chance at Parole 

SA: At their son's sentencing in 2013 for one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder, Toby Stangel's parents asked the judge to give their son hope that he could some day go free.

State Circuit Judge Glenn Kim sentenced then-30-year-old Stangel to three consecutive life prison terms. The Hawaii Paroling Authority later told Stangel that he would have to serve 50 years of one life term behind bars, then 40 years for each of the two other life terms before he would be eligible for parole.

The state Intermediate Court of Appeals is now offering Stangel the hope that Kim denied.

Last month, the appeals court overturned Stangel's three consecutive life prison terms.

John Schum, Stangel's trial lawyer, said he has shared the news with Stangel's parents. "They are thankful for the ICA's ruling and they're glad that Toby will have hope for the future," he said.

The appeals court maintains the reason Kim gave for stacking the life prison terms, rather than the customary concurrent sentencing, was based on an unsubstantiated assumption.

The state had sought to have Stangel face extended sentences of life in prison with no opportunity for release on parole. But jurors, who found Stangel guilty of murder, attempted murder, a firearms offense and other crimes, could not agree on whether he deserved the state's harshest penalty. So the state instead asked Kim to impose the three life prison terms back-to-back "to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant."

The prosecutor asserted that Stangel is a danger to the community because he used a semi-automatic firearm to commit the murder, attempted murders and other crimes. and pleaded no contest in 2004 to carrying a firearm without a permit.

Based on that, Kim said, "I think it's safe to infer that he's (Stangel) been illegally carrying around a handgun for years."

And combined with his years of severe substance abuse, Kim described Stangel as a lethal time bomb that eventually went off.

read ... Soft on Crime

Kauai dairy controversy heading to courts

HNN: The Friends of Mahaulepu, which represents a number of South Shore residents, issued a notice of intent to sue the dairy over potential violations of the federal Clean Water Act....

"Two thousand cows going potty in that valley is (insert excuse here)...."

But Hawaii Dairy Farms said the threatened lawsuit is without merit and that it is seeking the proper federal permits.

"Hawaii Dairy Farms believes this intent to file suit ... serves only to feed the inflammatory rhetoric of the Friends of Mahaulepu," the company said.

Hawaii Dairy, which is owned by eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar's Ulupono Initiative, is in the midst of plans for a 699-cow dairy. It hopes to someday expand that to 2,000 cows.

Friends, which is represented by Charles Tebbutt of Oregon, said Hawaii Dairy is proceeding without a proper National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

An NPDES permit is required of major industrial developments that disturb 1 or more acres....  (Yes.  They want to force farmers to endure the same enviro rules as industry.)

Recent tests by the Surfrider Foundation and the state of Hawaii have found high bacterial levels at Mahaulepu Beach and the nearby Waiopili Stream.  (Not caused by the dairy, because there are no cows there yet.)

State health officials aren't sure what's causing the pollution but have suggested it could be human waste from hikers going to the nearby Makauwahi cave. (Translation: The pollution is caused by environmentalists.)

"What we found amazed us ... the bacterial counts in the water were astronomical," said Carl Berg of the Surfrider Foundation's Kauai chapter.  (And what does this have to do with the dairy?)

Added Hammerquist: "It's threatening the aquifer and the ground waters and county drinking waters -- all of the drinking water in the entire Poipu coastline."  (And we hope you are dumb enough to blame the dairy, even though there are no cows on site yet.)

read ... Kauai Dairy

Paradise vs Utopia

KE: Is anyone else weary of the “Kauai as paradise” myth?

Especially when it's being used to advance such non-paradisiacal ventures tourism, at the cost of agriculture or any other sustainable endeavor.

Case in point: Today's letter to the editor from a “common-sense visitor” who knows all about what's best for Kauai because he loves it, and has visited often enough to convince himself that it was created to be a “paradise on earth.” Which means it's unfit for dairies or anything but accommodating the adoring hordes.

What's so ironic is the writer — David Boruta — doesn't realize his attack on the dairy could just as easily be applied to the tourist industry:  "It is beyond any reasoning to plan a dairy operation of the scale planned for Mahaulepu considering what will happen to our paradise. “Paradise lost” is something no one should take lightly. There isn’t a single reason to build the dairy here other than financial motivations for a few individuals. This will be at the expense of everyone else. More than the expense is the compromising of our most precious asset — Kauai’s paradise."

My favorite line:  The land does not belong to anyone, it belongs to everyone.

Well, except that land owned by folks like David Collison, who recently opined that the diary “will also certainly impact my property values and those of my neighbors as well as detrimentally affecting the tourist industry of the area which is, of course, one of the primary engines of Kauai’s economy.”

David Boruta ends his misinformed missive with this:  "Congratulations to the Kauai planning board for taking a responsible stand on the new Coco Palms Resort project. This $135 million dollar project will celebrate paradise while employing thousands of locals."

read ... Musings: Paradise vs Utopia

Crash in King Street bike lane--and Many Close Calls

KHON: Noel Kawano told KHON2 he was riding in the lane when a car turned into the driveway and he went flying.

“I was riding fast and he drove in fast and we just hit each other and I went over the hood,” he said.

Kawano considers himself lucky. He says he frequently experiences close calls while using the lane.

“Almost every time I bike on King Street, there’s a close call. I’d have to slam on my brakes or swerve out,” he said. “There needs to be some kind of indicator, especially when there’s parked cars like this, for the cars turning left into the driveways to really know, because from my experience, there’s way too many close calls for me at least.”

Kawano said closer attention by both drivers and bikers will also help.

Other bicyclists agree with Kawano that there have been a lot of close calls in the lane....

read ... Dangerous Experiment

Sheriffs to Clear Homeless out of Airport

KHON: A major change is coming to make Honolulu International Airport safer and more secure.

It has to do with publicly accessible areas, where many people have been sleeping or camping out overnight.

Sources tell KHON2 that security guards and law enforcement officers will be closing the lobbies on the second floor, tour group areas and baggage claims E through H from 10 p.m. through 5 a.m. daily.

Security will ask everyone who’s there to leave, unless they can prove they work there or have a flight the next day. They’ll also do a sweep of elevators and stairwells.

read ... Bums Out

State Study: Possible Sand Island Homeless Camp Site is Safe

CB: ...The results may reinvigorate Caldwell’s plan for a tent facility that would include restrooms, shuttle service to town, storage areas and security. The mayor announced plans for the homeless facility in August and had planned to have it operational by the end of last year.

The administration began having second thoughts about the site after health officials raised concerns about potential contamination. The city was facing as much as $25,000 in costs to test the soil. This was later covered by federal funds allocated to the Health Department by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Health officials had also suggested that the site might need to be covered with asphalt or crushed coral to contain any contamination, which could have cost the city up to $40,000.

The city would not need to cover the soil, said Grange.

Jesse Broder Van Dyke, a spokesman for the mayor, did not respond to questions about how the Caldwell administration plans to proceed with plans for the homeless site in light of the results of the new soil testing....

Meanwhile: Homeless Dude Accused of Attacking two with Hatchet in Chinatown

read ... Bums In

OIP looking into interruption of testifier during Maui prosecutor hearing

MN: ...At the March 3 meeting, Deputy Prosecutor Richard Minatoya testified that the "real reason" for the delay in confirming Kim stemmed from a meeting that Council Members Don Guzman and Elle Cochran had with Kim and First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rivera shortly after the general election.

Guzman solicited signatures for a petition he presented to Kim that demanded Minatoya be fired based on a "frivolous accusation" involving a Facebook post on Minatoya's personal page, Minatoya wrote in testimony he had prepared for the meeting.

His testimony said Kim refused to succumb to the council members' pressure and told them that terminating Minatoya for his Facebook postings was a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech.

Minatoya said Guzman was targeting Kim during his confirmation process because he refused to give in to pressure to fire Minatoya. He called Guzman's claims that he was acting on behalf of former and current prosecutor's office employees a "farce."

Minatoya's testimony was interrupted by Council Chairman White, who asked Minatoya to refrain from attacking council members. White called a recess before reconvening and telling Minatoya he had 30 seconds left.

Minatoya objected to not being given the full three minutes of testimony allowed under council rules.

He appealed to the Office of Information Practices, leading to the OIP request for justification and information from the council....

read ... OIP

Hawaii Restaurant Adds 3% Obamacare Charge to Bills

PBN: Some California and Florida restaurants have started adding an extra health care surcharge to their customers' bills, claiming to offset the cost of health insurance for their employees, but is that something that can happen in Hawaii?

KHON2 News recently reported what appears to be the first case in Hawaii: an unidentified restaurant was found to add a 3 percent health care surcharge on customers' bills.

But why would a restaurant in Hawaii add such a charge, if employers have had to provide employee health coverage since the enactment of the state's Prepaid Health Care Act in 1974?

"I don't know why they would add a health care surcharge," Stephen Levins, executive director of the state Office of Consumer Protection, told PBN. "It's not like the Affordable Care Act came in and everybody had to start anew."

read ... Chickens Come Home to Roost

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