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Sunday, February 7, 2016
February 7, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:39 PM :: 3608 Views

Campaign 2016: Dozens of Politicians Pull Papers in First Week

Legislative Update: Death, Taxes, and Extracurricular Activities

As Farms Close, Reps Ing and Lee Jump on Anti-GMO Bandwagon

GEMS to Cool Classrooms?

Indian Casinos for Hawaii?  Karl Rhoads Awaits Instructions from Political Bosses

SA: …Tom Yamachika, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, said if the state were to allow a lottery and a future Native Hawaiian community is federally recognized similar to that of a Native American tribe, that group would fall under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

Under IGRA, in a lottery state, the group or “tribe” would be able to institute gaming up to “Class II,” which includes bingo-type gaming and “non-banked” group card games, meaning there would be no playing against “the house,” according to Yamachika. Also under that federal act, casino gaming and slots would not be allowed if only a lottery were established in Hawaii.

“For casinos, video poker, the state would have to permit that same type of gaming,” Yamachika said….

…legislators such as Karl Rhoads are waiting for direction on how to proceed with lottery legislation such as House Bill 1830, which was introduced by Souki and seven other House members. “I think leadership is still talking about what to do. As a committee chair, if they decide they want to hear it, something might happen. It’s hard to say no to leadership,” Rhoads said, noting his committee members tend to lean against gambling, but the opinions are “not really set in concrete on lotto.”

Background: Gambling on a Hawaiian Tribe

read … Indian Gaming

Aha: First week of convention Focuses Push for Fake Indian Tribe

HNN: “What I am most amazed about is that we have the talent in the room to assume that kuleana and actually produce (Indian Tribe) documents to produce proposals for consideration by our greater community,” said Anthony Makana Paris, Oahu delegate to the aha and Na Makalehua member….

The aha will continue throughout the month of February and delegates say their discussions on the shape and path a Native Hawaiian governing entity (Indian Tribe) should take will continue to build.

“One amazing thing is that there’s a sense of urgency,” Paris said. “This time is the time that we need to do this work, it’s not in a month, it’s not in a year, it is now.”

(Yep.  Obama’s Last Day: January 20, 2017.)

read … first week of convention

Republican Primary Season for All Players

Borreca: This is a presidential political season for all players.

The idealistic can dive into issues from health care to tax relief. If you prefer political bombast over substance, Donald Trump is sure to entertain. There are as many angles as there are Republicans running for president….

…by carefully reading just delegate counts, you can make a good argument that despite Trump’s domination in the polls, the GOP presidential race is still up for grabs; and while Hillary and Bernie appear to be battling for every percentage point, Clinton is close to locking up the nomination….

Related: Where to Vote: Hawaii Republican Presidential Caucus

read … Vote March 8

Panicky Airhead Schatz Struggles to Appear Senatorial

Shapiro: In many ways, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz seems the opposite of the man he replaced, the late Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Beyond obvious demographic differences, Schatz is a more liberal Democrat than the iconic Inouye, more partisan and more media-aware.

He also has less job security; unlike Inouye’s nearly 50 years without a serious election challenge, Schatz fought for his life against Colleen Hanabusa in 2014 and is waiting to see if he’ll face another battle this year….

At 43, he vows to serve as long as voters let him…

After the Hanabusa scare, Schatz launched an aggressive fundraising campaign that put off even some supporters, but with $2.6 million in the bank and no declared opponent so far, his recent pitches have taken a more senatorial tone.

read … Less Senatorial

Term limits for Hawaii legislators and initiatives could revive isle politics

SA: …Hawaii is the only state in the western region without some form of direct or indirect voter initiative.

Why is Hawaii an outlier in this regard, and what are the consequences?

We’re an outlier because our last Constitutional Convention was held nearly 40 years ago. Since then there has been no mechanism for direct public involvement, and the Legislature has exclusively controlled what questions may be put up for popular vote.

The consequence of denying citizens any form of direct democracy has become apparent over this time. Hawaii’s Legislature holds itself to different governance standards than the ones we impose on every other public official, and certain state-level responsibilities are chronically ignored, in part because there are no remedies when we fail to act.

Two examples of how we in the Legislature exempt ourselves from the standards to which we hold other public officials are term limits and the sunshine law.

Both apply to county councils and every state board and commission, and term limits apply to the governor. Neither applies to us….

We are proposing two new laws to address these problems.

The first SB2754 provides for carefully controlled direct democracy, or voter initiative.

The second SB2753 establishes term limits for state legislators.

read … Which is why they don’t want it

Ferry plans face big hurdle in swelling culture of ‘no’

Cataluna:  …the Superferry debacle changed Hawaii, though the most significant impacts may not be measured in an environmental impact statement, even one that is properly completed this time around.

Some believe the Superferry protest on Kauai was the beginning of an era of confrontation in Hawaii. Not that there weren’t demonstrations before, but ever since all those surfers jumped into Nawiliwili Harbor and prevented the Superferry from coming into port, it’s as if protesting has become a favorite sport. People seem to look for new things to fight, and that particular style of confrontation has been brought to street corners, public meetings, even elementary school drop-off queues.

Another result: Distrust grew exponentially. The court ruling was proof positive to many that government leaders can’t be trusted to follow rules and to listen to voices in the community. That trust is not won back easily.

Is this now the right time for the Superferry? There are more people in Hawaii now, and many have embraced the power of “no.” It’s a time of stormy seas, literal and metaphorical. The Superferry could be in for another rough ride….

81% ‘YES’ -- Do you like the idea of an interisland ferry for Hawaii?

read … Culture of No

HB2638: Make Public Housing a Ladder to Home Ownership

SA: House Bill 2638, sponsored by state Rep. Sylvia Luke, has the right ideas at its core.

The measure would compel public housing residents to accept 7-year limits on their tenancy. At the same time, it would establish a program with supports designed to help them prepare for self-sufficiency, for renting on the regular market.

The bill will be heard before the Housing Committee at 8:30 a.m. Monday in conference room 329. It demands a full and receptive review….

the incentives of the bill seeking to change the dynamic of public-housing life have some hope of succeeding, because there would be alternative places for the tenants to rent.

For example: Tenants agreeing to the 7-year term will have their rent frozen at the minimum level for the duration. Currently, they have no drive to work for higher pay because rules now state they must pay a rent increase, too.

In addition, residents must be helped in developing better budgeting and financial skills. One avenue HB 2638 would open is the creation of a savings account for tenants who would be encouraged to set aside any extra money they begin to earn. Under the bill, the state would match the money they are able to save as a nest egg for their departure….

HB2638: Text, Status

read … 7 year term

Lawyers Salivate at Chance to get Money for Convicts

SA: Hawaii is one of 20 states that don’t provide any compensation for the wrongfully convicted. But that could change this year if a bill that’s making its way through the Legislature is successful. House Bill 1046 would require the state to pay the exonerated $50,000 for each year they were incarcerated.

For one ex-con this could amount to about $1 million.

Similar bills failed in the Legislature last year. But this year, the House bill has a new supporter — state Attorney General Doug Chin, who had testified in opposition to last year’s measures….

A 16-member special committee composed of judges, local attorneys and government officials and led by Circuit Judge Jeannette Castagnetti and Mark Bennett, a Honolulu attorney and former Hawaii attorney general, met over the course of several months last year. Their recommendations are largely incorporated into HB 1046….

DeMont Conner, a convicted felon who has become an advocate for both victims and the incarcerated since his release…“I was in prison for about 27 years total and the majority of people with me were pretty much all guilty. We all sit there, we talk, we know….”

The mis-named Hawaii Innocence Project is working on about a dozen more cases in which they think the person may have been wrongfully convicted (you know, like OJ Simpson), said Ken Lawson, the organization’s co-director.

Google: Ken Lawson Cincinnati and Disbarred Cincinnati Lawyer Seeks Redemption from Liberals in Paradise 

read … chance at compensation—for those as innocent as OJ Simpson

SB2313: Field Day for Lawyers

SA: …SB 2313 proposes to reduce the number of legally permissible reasons that allow an employer to pay a woman less than a man for the same work.

Hawaii’s existing equal-pay law allows employers to pay someone of the opposite sex less for work that requires equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar conditions only if the pay is governed by a seniority system, a merit system, a bona fide occupational qualification or the quantity or quality of production. The law also allows a pay disparity for equal work if it is based on “any other permissible factor other than sex.”

Proposed amendments to the law offered in the bill would eliminate the last broad category along with pay specifically based on production quantity or quality. Also, extra qualifications would be added to the other exemptions.

For example, a merit system, which perhaps could cover work quality, must be applied consistently and without discrimination. An occupational qualification, under the bill, must be necessary for a position and have no disparate impact based on sex. And for a seniority system to be a valid exemption, it must be established by a collective bargaining agreement, civil service requirement or formal employer policy.

The bill also would eliminate a requirement under existing law that allows wage comparisons only for employees in the same physical location. The bill also forbids employers from discouraging or prohibiting employees from inquiring about or disclosing the pay of co-workers.

One other proposed tweak to the law would change the phrase “equal work” to “substantially similar work.” ….

read … Lawsuits Galore

Senate committee approves bill imposing tax on E-cigarettes and E-liquids

HNN: The debate about e-cigarettes in Hawaii reignited Saturday during a public hearing with the senate committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health.

The committee approved a bill that would levy a tax on electronic smoking devices and e-liquids containing nicotine in Hawaii, beginning January 1, 2017.

Supporters of SB 2691 say it’s a step in the right direction.

"We strongly support this,” said Jessica Yamauchi, executive director of Hawaii Public Health Institute. “Currently e-cigs don't have any kind of tobacco tax attached to them whereas all cigarettes and tobacco products do have a tax." 

(Translation: We are senior partners in the tobacco business and E-cigs are cutting into out profits.  You peasants either need to start smoking tobacco again or pay up!)

Sean Anderson, owner of Black Lava Vape in Kailua-Kona, testified against the bill.

He maintains e-cigs are an effective way to quit smoking regular cigarettes.

"What nobody's discussing is how many people have actually stopped smoking using vapor devices of any sort," Anderson said.

Anderson adds that taxing e-cigs like tobacco cigs would only encourage smokers to remain with tobacco products.

"The state knows tobacco will kill you but they can't prove that vaping does any harm other than gets them off tobacco, so it's got to be about money,” Anderson said.

SB2691: Text, Status

read … Tax Revenue Enhancer

Cigar Tax Cut on Agenda for 2016?

HW: State representatives Joseph M. Souki, D-8; Derek S.K. Kawakami, D-14; and Dee Morikawa, D-16, have introduced HB 1634 to the legislature for consideration. It has since been referred to the Hawaii House Committees on Consumer Protection & Commerce as well as Finance, while its Senate companion bill, SB 2135 was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Currently, large cigars are taxed at a rate of 50 percent of the wholesale price. Should the proposal pass, a cigar with a suggested retail price of $9.50 would go from costing $14.25 to $10.50 by halfwheel estimates. The bill seeks a start date of July 1 on the reduction.

In both 2013 and 2014, a similar proposal was introduced, though it never made it out of the Hawaii House Ways and Means Committee.

Another bill, SB 2692, has been introduced and seeks to increase the excise tax in OTP other than large cigars from 70 to 80 percent of the wholesale price.

read …  Cigar tax

Marijuana Bills – Ban Home Grown?

CN: State Representative Marcus Oshiro, an Oahu Democrat, has introduced a series of interrelated bills to the legislature aimed at regulating elements of Hawaii’s medical marijuana system.

His first bill, HB 1680, has drawn the most controversy. It bans home growing. Instead, medical patients would have to purchase all of their medicine in dispensaries. The Department of Health will be announcing eight licenses by April 15, and those dispensaries may open by July 15.

The rationale for the bill, Oshiro said, was to keep marijuana away from minors. The bill also says that home growing would undermine the viability of dispensaries.

To blunt criticism from Americans for Safe Access and fellow state representatives that low-income patients, who represent a sizable portion of the states medical cannabis patients, would not be able to afford dispensary prices, Rep. Oshiro introduced HB 2455, which would establish a system of price controls to assist those patients. In a reply to Cannabis Now, he said that Washington DC had a similar policy and suggested Keith Stroup, national legal counsel for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, would agree.

“In the District of Columbia, they included a provision under which the government subsidizes the cost of medical marijuana for low-income patients,” Stroup told Cannabis Now. “That is an interesting, far more targeted way to assure affordability.”

A third bill, HB 1677, directs the state’s medical board to ensure the state’s doctors cannot make recommending marijuana more than a fraction of their practice. Oshiro said the purpose of this bill was “to avoid a similar overuse of powerful pain killing medication, i.e., Oxycontin.”

read … Will Hawaii Ban Home Grows?

Caldwell’s Potholes Repaired with ‘Least Durable Method’

SA: …the city’s 37-member pothole-repair team is scrambling to complete tens of thousands of annual repairs across Oahu.

To keep up, the team uses the fastest but least-durable methods to patch potholes on aging streets still waiting to be repaved. That often means it has to return to potholes it fixed because the problem has resurfaced.

“We’re not repairing them in a fashion that you would normally repair defects. We don’t want to fall too far behind,” Department of Facility Maintenance Director Ross Sasamura said. Potholes are potential safety hazards so crews have to pick quantity over quality when it comes to repairs, officials say.

Still, potholes on city streets awaiting repavings keep getting worse, causing angst among local residents. Panui Street in Liliha now more resembles a patchwork of asphalt lumps than it does a cohesive road. Allison Lee-Takamine’s grandmother lives there….

read … Job Security

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