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Wednesday, March 18, 2015
March 18, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:26 PM :: 4222 Views

$1.9 Billion: NextEra is the #2 Recipient of US Corporate Welfare

Do Drugs? Hawaii County is Hiring!

Deferred, not Defeated: Marsy's Law Supporters Organize for Next Session

Lawsuit: OE Local 3 Hawaiian Stabilization - multimillion-dollar slush fund for union bosses

Chief Justice Seeks Public Comment on Oahu Family Court Nominees

Concealed Carry: Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act Hearing Friday

Supreme Court Orders Online Travel Companies to Pay Millions in TAT, GE Tax

Occupy Honolulu Suit -- Losing Still Pays off for Lawyers

Ching appointment goes to full Senate

UPDATE: Ige Withdraws Ching Nomination, Doesn't Have Votes

GM514: Nominee CARLETON CHING withdrawn by Governor. (Gov. Msg. No. 545)

PDF: GM545

Flashback March 8, 2015: George Awo Being Promoted as Alternative to Ching for DLNR?

SA: The 25-member state Senate will vote during its 11:30 a.m. floor session on Gov. David Ige's controversial pick of Ching, a Castle & Cooke executive, to lead the state agency that oversees Hawaii's public lands. The session will be broadcast on ‘Olelo Channel 49 on Oahu, Na Leo on Hawaii island, Akaku on Maui and Ho‘ike on Kauai, according to a news release.

The vote remains close, according to sources at the state Capitol. As of Tuesday afternoon, several senators remained on the fence while others were poised to vote along coalition lines that have formed within the chamber....

read ... Vote Today

DoE Panics: Test Scores Will Go Down 30%, State may Lose Control of Federal Funding

SA: Some 93,000 public school students are expected to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment between now and June. The federal government requires states to test students annually in grades 3 to 8, and once in high school. States face possible sanctions, including loss of control over federal funding, if the mandated tests are not given to most students.

Hawaii is one of about 30 states that have agreed by this school year to administer new tests aligned to the Common Core standards — nationally crafted academic standards that lay out what students should know and be able to do in reading and math from kindergarten to grade 12.

At Lanakila Elementary in Li­liha, students, teachers and even parents have taken multiple practice Smarter Balanced tests to prepare for the upcoming assessment....

Campbell High School teacher Corey Rosenlee — who has been outspoken about what he calls a pervasive culture of toxic testing — says standardized tests do more harm than good when scores are used to evaluate teachers and punish low-performing schools....

Other parents say their children are stressed out....

Hawaii law doesn't include specific opt-out language, and legislation that would require the Board of Education to inform parents about opting out of statewide standardized testing has stalled.

Schools Superintendent Kathryn Mata­yo­shi says the federal government requires a 95 percent test participation rate at schools, "otherwise there are consequences for the school."

"It's sort of a double whammy because if you opt out, you don't get taken out of the equation. You're still a part of the equation, but your score is a zero, so you actually bring down the school's proficiency because the student is marked a zero for the test," she said in an interview.

Under Hawaii's federal accountability waiver from the outdated No Child Left Behind law, student achievement — as measured on standardized tests — has to be used to gauge teacher effectiveness and to hold schools responsible for learning gains.

Mililani High School teacher Amy Perruso says teachers are being instructed by principals and other administrators not to inform parents of what she calls an implicit right to opt children out. Perruso has opted her fourth-grade daughter out of testing this year and in previous years.

Education officials say the new tests are designed to emphasize critical-thinking and problem-solving skills over rote memorization. But they warn scores will go down this year.

Superintendent Mata­yo­shi said this year's results should be viewed as "a new starting point." ...

"We expect the change to the new test and standards will result in a drop in scores as compared to previous years," she wrote. "Lower test scores do not mean students are performing any worse, because these are newer, higher expectations for student learning."

Last year, to help with the transition, students took a hybrid or so-called bridge assessment — a subset of math and reading questions from the former Hawaii State Assessment that most aligned with the more demanding Common Core.

Overall scores dropped slightly. Statewide, 59 percent of isle students tested proficient in math for the 2013-14 school year, down from 60 percent the year before. Meanwhile 70 percent of students were proficient in language arts, down from 72 percent a year prior.

In New York state, where schools started using Common Core tests two years ago, the number of students who scored proficient in math plummeted by more than 30 percentage points in 2013, while passing English scores dropped by more than 20 percentage points.

A similar drop in scores was seen in Kentucky. Both states have showed modest improvements in subsequent years.

Hawaii's results won't be available until August, after the current school year and teacher evaluation cycle ends.

2011: DoE Boosts Test Scores by Giving Answers to Students 

read ... Panic

Tax Revenue up 7.9% over Last Year

PBN: The Hawaii state Department of Taxation has collected $3.8 billion in general fund tax deposits for the current fiscal year, an increase of 7.9 percent compared to the same period last year.

In February, the department collected a total $456.5 million in general fund tax deposits. Of that, $254.6 million was in general excise tax, $153.4 million was in individual income tax, $36.9 million in transient accommodation tax, and $38.5 in other taxes. It also returned $8.7 million in corporate tax.The current fiscal year ends on June 30.

Through February, the state collected $2 million in GET, a 6.1 percent gain from the same time period last year; $40.2 million in corporate income tax, a 5.2 percent drop; $1.34 billion in individual income tax, a 14.7 percent jump; TAT of $273.4, a 6.4 percent jump; and other taxes collected totaled $327.6, a 4.6 percent drop.

read ... No Need Tax Hike -- 1

House Resolution Asks PUC to Obstruct NextEra Merger

IM: Representative Chris Lee (acting on behalf of solar contractors)  introduced House Resolution (HR) 158 / House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 227 “Requesting the Public Utilities Commission to Protect the Public Interest in Reviewing the Proposed Acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Industries by NextEra Energy, Inc.” ...

The Resolution has been scheduled for a hearing by the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection (EEP) tomorrow morning, March 19, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. at the State Capitol room 325. ...

HCR 227 asks that the Public Utilities Commission “protect the public interest in reviewing the proposed acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Industries by NextEra Energy, Inc.” and “to consider, at a minimum, imposing strict conditions” on the merger.

IM: Will HECO and NextEra oppose the military’s untimely request to intervene in the merger proceedings?

read ... Stop NextEra

Ige: "I am committed to 100% Renewable Generation"

HTH: Asked what he views as the Big Island’s biggest issue or priority, Ige said making sure the Hawaii Health System Corp. is sustainable. Through the years, the statewide hospital system’s requested general fund subsidy has grown from about $80 million to more than $160 million, he said.

“Clearly, that growth is just not sustainable over the long haul,” Ige said. “So, it’s really looking at what actions we need to take to ensure that the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation can continue to provide needed services to our communities … here on the Big Island.” ...

“I am committed to 100 percent renewable generation for electricity in the state, and activities at Pacific Biodiesel are part of that conversation,” he said....

Ige’s predecessor, former Gov. Neil Abercrombie, was not shy about his position on geothermal energy, voicing support for it as an important resource for the state’s future energy needs. Asked about his stance, Ige said, “I do think, you know, we should go through the permitting processes.”

Hawaii Electric Light Co. is working to begin a geothermal power project that would generate an additional 25 megawatts on Hawaii Island. Ormat Technologies, which operates Puna Geothermal Venture, was selected last month to provide those additional megawatts of geothermal power to HELCO.

“We just want to be certain that they go through all of the rules and regulations that are required for development of the geothermal resource, if the project should move forward,” he said....

PDF: Ige proclaims 'Pacific Biodiesel Day'

read ... Governor talks Big Isle issues

Oil Price Drops Cut Electric Bills 4%

SA: Dropping oil prices continue to pull down electrical bills in Hawaii, with Oahu's typical customer paying 4 percent less in March than February.

The bill for a typical household using 600 kilowatt-hours on Oahu will be $170.25 in March, down $7.20 from February, according to Hawaiian Electric Co., the state's largest utility provider with service to Oahu, Maui and Hawaii island. The price per kilowatt-hour dropped to 26.7 cents this month, down from 27.9 cents in February.

The lower bills are due to the falling price of fuel, said Darren Pai, HECO spokes­man.

"The decreases are all attributed to lower costs for fuel and purchased power," Pai said.

Along with the decreasing prices at fuel-powered plants, the utility lowered the price it pays for power from renewable generation sites such as wind farms.

The decrease follows a $9.77 drop in bills in February from January.

March marks the lowest electrical rate Oahu customers have paid since February 2011, when the rate was 26.4 cents per kilowatt-hour for a typical bill of $167.47.

Despite the current benefits customers are seeing from the falling oil prices, HECO is still set on cutting its use of oil.  The utility is committed to lowering its prices for customers in a sustainable way, Pai said.... (Translation: The utility is committed to keeping customers from seeing lower prices attributed to declining oil costs.)

Gravy Train Derailing? $1.9 Billion: NextEra is the #2 Recipient of US Corporate Welfare

read ... Green Energy Scammers Worried

Lump Sum Budget Would Give UH Autonomy

KITV: ...the House is willing to give UH more autonomy by way of lump sum budgeting

"This year we are trying something different so there is not going to be separate appropriations for the community colleges or different campuses," said House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke.

This way UH officials control how to spend both general fund and tuition money.

"At this point in time we need to let the experts decide what is best for the university and at this time the experts are at the university," said Luke.

UH officials are glad for the new flexibility, however

"The amount that Chair Luke included in the budget is only what is included in the budget for this fiscal year. It does not include other funding needs of the university," said Kalbert Young, chief financial officer for UH.

The budget is $34 million short of dealing with things like added utility costs and Title 9 gender equity federal mandates.

UH also said under the House budget, it is to receive less than a fourth of the $200 million it asked for,  to tackle the backlog of repairs and other capital projects.

SA: UH deserves fair funding, in lump sum

read ... Autonomy

Chancellor Favors AD Candidate Search Committee Refused to Interview

KHON: The eight-member search committee submitted its recommendation to UH Manoa chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman.

Sources have confirmed the lone name submitted was Hawaii Bowl executive director David Matlin.

Sources add that Bley-Vroman is also considering former Hawaii High School Athletic Association executive director Keith Amemiya.

Amemiya was not granted an interview by the search committee. However, Bley-Vroman can take the panel’s suggestion or make a choice of his own.

read ... Academic Circus Continues

Officers omitted game room attacks in reports, FBI says

SA: The FBI says the Hono­lulu police officers under investigation for an alleged assault at an illegal gambling house lied in their reports about the incident, according to federal court records.

The court records say two people were assaulted Sept. 5 in the game room called Doc's at 1165 Hopaka St., behind McKinley Car Wash....

As part of its investigation, the FBI says it obtained reports submitted by all three officers who were at the game room and HPD reports of the department's own investigation.

The FBI says J.T. and the third officer said in their reports that they went to the game room on a tip that a forgery suspect would be there, but left without finding the suspect. The reports make no mention of the assaults.

Morre signed and dated his description of what happened in the game room four days later, the FBI says. Morre's report does not describe hitting or kicking anyone or injuring anyone with a chair.

In his report, Morre said he threw a chair over his shoulder in frustration.

The FBI seized the laptop computer Morre used to prepare his report because it contends that Morre drafted and handed his sergeant a report on Sept. 5, then, after a discussion about its content, decided to turn in a different report four days later.

The court records indicate that the FBI is investigating whether Morre used his police powers to deprive game room patrons of their rights and whether he destroyed, altered or falsified a record in a federal investigation.

An HPD representative said he cannot comment on any ongoing investigation. But he said Morre and one of the other officers implicated in the assault are on restricted, administrative duty. The third police officer was a reserve officer whose service ended in October....

read ... Omitted

Police could wear body cameras under state proposal

SA: Police officers could end up donning body cameras under a proposal in Hawaii state Legislature that would enable the Honolulu Police Department to begin a pilot program.

The Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs approved the bill, HB 365, on Tuesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii supported the proposal, but the group wants to make sure there are guidelines for protecting citizens' privacy. While the group is generally against the proliferation of surveillance cameras in society, it says police body cameras are different because of the potential to serve as a check against abuse of police powers.

"If I were a police officer, I would definitely want to have that as my own armor to show that in tricky situations that I'm doing everything by the book and above board," said Sen. Rosalyn Baker, a Maui Democrat who supported the proposal.

Another bill passed by the committee, HB 456, would end a requirement that complaints about domestic abuse committed by a police officer be made in writing or in a sworn statement.

The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers opposed the bill, arguing in written testimony about how allegations of domestic abuse can impact an officer. The group said once such an allegation is made, the officer's police powers are removed, and then he or she can't work "special duty" assignments to earn extra money that's often used for mortgage and tuition payments....

read ... Bodycams

Breaking the cycle: 50-70% of Children of Prisoners Become Criminals

KITV: "It's almost shocking how much they worry about their parents," said Keiki o Ka Aina Executive Director Momi Akana.  "They worry about whether they're OK, if they're getting hurt.  Will they ever come back?"

This is a really critical time to try and improve the system.  Keiki o Ka Aina just got a 3-year grant from the Kellogg Foundation.  More than 1,000 groups applied....

Tuesday marks the first Hawaii Conference Supporting Children of Incarcerated Parents.  A top priority -- getting a better count of the keiki impacted and providing the trust and the care to crack the cycle.

"They'll tell you, eventually, once the trust is there, and those kids are very much at risk," said retired Family Court Judge Mike Town.  "Fifty to 70 percent of children of prisoners end up committing some kind of crime and getting trouble with the law."

"Being able to support these children, being able to keep them connected to their parents who are inside, it's one of the best things you can do to help those children make it through those years and be able to come out well on the other side," said Akana....

There are a handful of bills still alive in the legislature to help families impacted by incarceration.  For one, Senate Bill 913 would require the state's Corrections Division to document if inmates are parents and how many children they have.  The bill goes before the Public Safety Committee on Thursday.

read ... Cycle

BOE committee approves school meal price increase

KHON:  The Board of Education’s finance and infrastructure committee approved a plan that would raise school lunch prices by a quarter next school year. The cost of breakfast would go up 10 cents.

Click here for more information on the proposal, which now goes to the full board for a vote.

The last time school lunch prices increased was back in 2011.

The Department of Education initially proposed a three-year increase, but the plan was amended to one year with a follow-up.

Board members said they needed the department to closely examine the cost of preparing school meals and determine whether the increases were needed.

Currently, a lunch meal costs $2.25 for grades K through 8, and $2.50 for 9 though 12th grades. The School Food Services Branch provided numbers explaining why a 25-cent increase is necessary.

“We spent $10 million a year on milk, and milk alone here is about two and half times more than on the mainland.

(Milk price controls cost Hawaii DoE $6M?)

Kauai: Some parents not happy school lunch prices could rise

read ... Price Hike

Anti-GMO Activists Oppose Enterprise Zones for Ranchers

HTH: The county Department of Research and Development wants to take advantage of the renewals to significantly expand the zones, especially in West Hawaii and around Mauna Kea. A number of ranchers interested in becoming part of the program have had to be turned down because there isn’t an enterprise zone there, said Economic Development Specialist Jane Horike.

But Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille and Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter asked for more time, saying there could be unintended consequences that could harm specific areas of their districts.

“I have a big problem with this, especially with the expansion into the mauka areas, into the conservation areas,” Wille said. “It’s not opposing economic development. It’s addressing environmental issues.”

Hilo resident Corey Harden urged the council not to expand the districts.

“This resolution would sacrifice thousands of acres of our land to line a few pockets,” Harden said.

Puna resident RJ Hampton also opposed the measure....

The program has assisted 200 to 300 manufacturers, wholesalers and agricultural enterprises on the island since its inception, said Wayne Thom, community economic development manager for the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Kona Pacific Farmers Cooperative and Hamakua Mushrooms are two agricultural enterprises benefiting from the program, he said.

Businesses opening in enterprise zones pay no general excise tax for the first three years. In addition, they get an 80 percent state income tax credit the first year, which drops by 10 percent annually until it reaches 20 percent the seventh year. Agricultural enterprises get 20 percent for another three years after that.

read ... Anti-Agriculture

Thefts threaten Memorial Day services at West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery

WHT: Thieves stole almost $10,000 worth of tents, equipment and tools late last week from the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery, leaving supporters at a loss as they plan for their traditional Memorial Day services.

David Carlson, president of the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery Association and commander of the American Legion Kona Post 20, said someone who knew the gate combination and apparently had a key to the padlocked storage area made off with three tents, including the poles and new covers the American Legion had recently purchased, as well as a ladder, weed trimmer, tools used for maintaining the cemetery and the lowboy trailer used to haul heavy equipment to dig burial sites....

The theft apparently took place Thursday night, he said.

“Whoever did it knew what they were doing,” Carlson said. “They had the combination; they had the key.”

He said about 400 people attend Memorial Day services at the cemetery. While it’s possible the tents and equipment may be recovered, Carlson said the American Legion is seeking contributions in case that doesn’t happen in time for Memorial Day.

“The Legion could use some financial assistance,” he said.

Checks can be sent to the American Legion, P.O. Box 4706, Kailua-Kona, HI 96745. Checks can be marked “WHVCA,” to ensure they go to the cemetery, he said.

read ... Thieves

New $2M State Capitol fire alarm system suffers false alarms, like the old one

HNN: Lawmakers raised concerns Tuesday about a new $2 million State Capitol fire alarm system that has suffered false alarms since it went into service in January, replacing an old system that was plagued with false alarms.

A company called C and C Electrical Contractor installed the new system last year and activated the new system in January after it passed initial tests.

But in the last three months, there have already been a handful of false alarms, such as one that interrupted work at the State Capitol just before 9 a.m. Tuesday.

"Please cease operations and leave the building utilizing the nearest exit or fire exit stairway. Do not use elevators. Repeat, do not use elevators," announced an automated male voice from speakers throughout the capitol after an alert sound.

Ironically, the State Capitol management committee was discussing the new fire alarm system and security upgrades when it was interrupted by Tuesday morning's false alarm, which caused some people to evacuate.

read ... $2M Wasted

Sale of ‘Magnum P.I.’ home may be tied to President Obama

KHON: “I think the people who are kind of negatively concerned are worried that security is going to somehow impede or interfere with their life here in Waimanalo. It’s going to put Waimanalo on the map, that’s for sure,” Siegel added....

Listing agent Mary Worrall sold the home for $8.7 million on behalf of the same ohana that had owned it since the 1930s when it was built.

She said everyone in the transaction had to sign confidentiality agreements, so nothing further could be disclosed about who is buying it and what plans are for the house.

Always Investigating reviewed the deed and mortgage and found the buyer is an LLC called Waimanalo Paradise, set up just last month, whose mailing address and contact is Obama donor and Chicago lawyer Seth Madorsky.

The deed and the mortgage are signed by a person with the same name, Judy Grimanis, as an executive assistant at a Chicago-based private capital firm run by Obama’s longtime friend and frequent Hawaii golf and travel partner Marty Nesbitt. It is also the same name of a person who worked for prominent Obama fundraiser Penny Pritzker’s companies.

The mortgage is held by yet another LLC set up last month, this one called Hoaloha Holdings.

The mortgage is nearly a million dollars more than the sale price, a $9.5 million note, so it would appear some major renovations could be in store for the aging property.

No comment yet from the seller or those associated with the Waimanalo Paradise or Hoaloha Holdings LLCs, nor from the White House about the First Family’s connections, if any.

read ... Sale of ‘Magnum P.I.’ home may be tied to President Obama

Billionaire Dreams that Information Technology is Convincing new Generation of Peasants to Want Less for Themselves

CB: Many argue that the generation born in the final two decades of the 20th century is made up of commitment-phobic, narcissistic kids with lots of Google-able surface-knowledge and no depth....

But we should pay attention for very different reasons. This up-and-coming generation has developed lifestyle tools for coping with its economic situation — especially downscaled opportunities — that have the potential to help Hawaii’s sinking middle class (to accept even less).

There are also few signs the overall cost of living will become meaningfully more affordable, despite recent drops in oil, gas and, to a lesser extent, electricity prices. Similarly, there isn’t much immediate hope that salaries will suddenly lurch upward to allow more locals to get the upper hand in their daily struggle with high costs.  (Message from the billionaire: Accept it.)

CB: Billionaire Disappointed that Homeless are not made into Sacred Cows

read ... Dream On



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