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Thursday, February 11, 2016
February 11, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:49 PM :: 5262 Views

HB1829 Makes it Easier to Divert Dispensary Weed to Black Market

US Senate Votes to Permanently Ban Hawaii's Tax on Internet Access

The Last Farmer Standing

Grassroot Asks Legislature to Stop Using the GET as a Fundraising Tool

Gabbard: Obama, Kenoi show Leadership on Dengue—Where’s Ige?

UHERO: Recent Trends in Hawaii's Green Economy: Agriculture, Energy and Natural Resource Management

DBEDT: Residential building permits jump 67.5 percent

Legislators Advance 50% Hike in GE Tax

CB: When state Sen. Roz Baker announced in her committee room Wednesday that her colleagues had agreed to a plan to increase the general excise tax to help long-term care providers, supporters applauded and issued heartfelt thanks.

The supporters, including members of Faith Action for Community Equity, believe that being able to draw on an in-home care defined benefit of $70 per day for up to 365 days would help tens of thousands of people in Hawaii taking care of sick and elderly loved ones….

under a law signed by Gov. David Ige last year, all four counties are authorized by the state to enact up to a 0.5 percent GET surcharge from Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2027, as long as the additional revenue is used for public transportation projects.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell recently signed a bill doing just that on Oahu to help cover rail cost overruns.

In the past several months, elected officials on Maui, Kauai and Hawaii counties have raised the possibility of increasing their islands’ surcharge to match what Oahu is doing….

Back at the Legislature, meanwhile, in addition to Baker’s caregiver bill, SB 2478, there is a Senate bill calling for a 1 percent GET increase to pay for broad educational reforms and air conditioning for classrooms. The Hawaii State Teachers Association estimates that the increase would bring in $750 million annually.

Senate Bill 2586 passed Michelle Kidani’s Education Committee on Wednesday. Another Kidani measure, SB 2599, requires that the additional revenue be deposited into a special account in the general fund for Department of Education operations, including salaries and maintenance costs.

Both bills now head to Ways and Means, the Senate money committee, where they are certain to be heavily scrutinized….

Baker’s bill calls for a 0.5 percent surcharge on the GET, which is currently 4.5 percent on Oahu and 4 percent on the other islands.

Now, imagine a 1 percent GET increase on top of that to pay for education reform. Then imagine the other three counties follow Oahu’s lead and adopt the 0.5 percent surcharge for transportation projects…. 

(Total 2.0% on top of 4.0% = 50% GE Tax Hike)

HNN: Lawmakers debate controversial tax increases

read … Raising The GET: Will Hawaii Lawmakers Take A Bite Of The Forbidden Fruit?

Utility Taxes Rerouted to Reward HSTA for Supporting Ige

SA: The Senate Transportation and Energy, and Education committees jointly advanced Senate Bill 3126, which would loan the Department of Education $100 million from the state’s Green Energy Market Securitization, or GEMS, program. The bill also appropriates $7 million from the general fund for an initial loan payment.

The GEMS program, established in 2013, was set up as a financing program to provide low-cost loans to homeowners and nonprofits for photovoltaic systems and other clean-energy improvements. The state sold $150 million in bonds in 2014 to launch the program — and has spent $1.2 million so far in administrative costs — but has financed only three consumer loans totaling $107,000 to date.

The principal and interest on the bonds are being repaid by all utility ratepayers through a surcharge on monthly electricity bills. The surcharge, labeled as a “Green Infrastructure Fee” on bills, was roughly $1.40 last month for residential customers.

read … Payback

AirBnB to Become State’s Tax Collector

SA: A version of a bill supported by Airbnb that would allow the online vacation rental giant and similar companies to collect and remit taxes on behalf of hosts has passed out of the Senate Committee on Tourism and International Affairs.

SB 2693, introduced by Sen. Rosalyn Baker, will have to get similar approval from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health to continue to the Senate Ways and Means committee. The commerce committee did not have a quorum Wednesday so it deferred its vote until this morning.

Airbnb said the bill is part of a global push to ensure hosts pay their taxes….

Larry Bartley, executive director of Save Oahu’s Neighborhoods, testified in opposition. Bartley said the nondisclosure portion of the bill would undermine county enforcement against illegal vacation rental operators….

read … Tax Collector

Huge Progress? After Kicking Most Hawaiians Out, Nai Aupuni Aha Decides to … Adopt Roberts Rules of Order

CB: The two and a half years of public meetings and political dialogue leading up to Nai Aupuni was fraught with disagreement and face-offs, especially among Hawaiians. There were fears that the gathering of candidates would be like a gathering of storm clouds, given the deep political divide between several of the factions represented by the candidates turned delegates. The fear was that attempts at anarchy would be the outcome of the day and chaos would triumph.

But after a shaky start, order was quickly established within the first few days when the vast majority of the delegates elected to adopt Robert’s Rules of Order to govern procedures. That decision ensured fairness in the deliberations, set standards of civility and respect for and toward each other, and brought a sense of dignity to the body. As of this writing, the Aha has taken a second pivotal step, again supported by a convincing majority, by electing a leadership structure in preparation for launching a series of plenary sessions. Remarkable.

In a few short days, Aha delegates have been able to merge a sense of urgency with a disciplined and structured dialogue that sets the body on a fast track to formalizing into a legitimate convention of Hawaiian leaders. They are racing the clock set for a 20-day session with much to accomplish….

Shortly after this column is published the 20 day session will have expired – but I hope not adjourned. While it is not clear what will follow, I expect there will still be plenty of work for the Aha to address. If declaring a recess subject to the call of the chair is not a parliamentary option to adjournment, then perhaps there is some other provision to keep the body intact in anticipation of a subsequent resumption of plenary activity….

Translation: Under projected: The Aha is exceeding those very very low expectations.

Reality: Pirate Video from Aha: Bumpy Kanahele Shouted Down, Walter Ritte Thrown Out

read … Peter Apo Spin

Thirty-Meter Telescope officials reviewing sites outside of Hawaii

HNN: “I think that the partners all felt that we needed to develop alternatives so we had some option if in fact it turns out that it is not feasible on a timely basis to develop the telescope in Hawaii,” said Ed Stone, TMT executive director.

Opponents of the project, meanwhile, accuse TMT of bluffing to pressure the governor.

Mauna Kea Hui spokeswoman Kealoha ‘$50 Million’ Pisciotta says her group is seeking extended hearings at the Land Board, and might even challenge Mauna Kea’s underlying management plan, a move that could add years – not months – to any construction timeline.

“I do think it could take anywhere from two to five years to get through it all because we are going to require every possible approval,” she said.

That kind of uncertainty is why TMT is looking for other places to build.

Stone said the project needs a “timely permit.” He’d like to have one in hand by the end of this year or early 2017.

“We have a deadline just because we have been at this for eight years and at some point we have to realize whether we have an objective in sight or not,” he said. “We want to develop our alternative in parallel so that we have off ramps if necessary.”

Stone is not offering a specific deadline, but says with each fiscal year it becomes more likely one of the international partners -- especially Canada or Japan -- will move their money from the $1.4 billion project….

TMT officials say they’ve spent more than $170 million the project so far, but much of that isn’t site-specific. That means the amount lost if the project were to leave Hawaii would be much lower.

But onlookers are likely to point out TMT’s departure would have a significant impact on Hawaii’s business community, and could deter future development.

read … No Rent Money for OHA

Hounded by Protesters, Geothermal Company Quits HELCO RFP

BIVN: Ormat has withdrawn from contract negotiations to provide 25 megawatts of additional geothermal energy on the Big Island, the Hawaii Electric Light Company announced today.

Ormat was selected on February 24, 2015 following a competitive bid on the utility’s Request for Proposal (RFP) “based on their ability to meet price levels and performance standards”, according to HELCO. Contract negotiations began shortly after.

“Our primary goal for the RFP was to obtain geothermal energy that could significantly lower the overall cost to our customers while maintaining overall system reliability,” said Jay Ignacio, Hawai‘i Electric Light Company president, in a media release. “We’re disappointed that Ormat decided not to proceed to develop the project.”

A large segment of the Puna community resisted the geothermal expansion from the beginning. In August 2013, hundreds marched from Pahoa to Hilo, demostrating outside the HELCO headquarters in opposition to the RFP.

read … Keep Burning Diesel

Hawaii Needs All Types Of Farms, Including Industrial Operations

CB: The ag we grew up with didn’t seem so industrial, but of course it was. So, it is both sad and disheartening to read people writing snidely about industrial agriculture and demanding it be driven away.

“Cane” and “pine” covered vast areas on most islands, were among the most mechanized agricultural ventures in the world, and they employed thousands of workers. They were the key economic engine of the last century in Hawaii.

Good or bad, they brought the islands the ethnic mix we have today. Their union wages let a lot of people build their own homes and send their kids to good schools. The plantations built hospitals. They built towns. They supported small businesses throughout our archipelago.

Some folks these days think about plantations and only think about the chemicals they used or the smoke that spread from the burning fields, but these industrial agricultural ventures were far more than that. Among other things, they were amazingly diverse employers….

It is maddening for many of us from the plantation era to hear people cheering the demise of our islands’ last sugar plantation on Maui.

This mean-spiritedness — celebrating someone else’s misfortune — seems new in Hawaii, although it’s certainly not new to the world. There’s even a foreign word for it: schadenfreude, getting pleasure from someone else’s pain….

read … Final Triumph of Tourism

Marijuana Application Process ‘Stinky’

KE: …the state Department of Health is all mum. As in, it won't tell us who is awarding those lucrative medical marijuana licenses or even who picked the power-wielding panelists.

Civil Beat quotes Gov. Ige as saying it's important to keep it all secret “to ensure they can properly do their jobs.” Ya mean like award licenses to their friends before folks can cry foul?

Yet in the perverse world of politics, Ige's spokeswoman actually sees the secrecy as ensuring that the process “is perceived to be fair and objective.”

Oh, yes, I've always found secrecy, and the inability to scrutinize the qualifications of those doling out valuable contracts, as part and parcel of “fair and objective.”

From where I sit, it's all kinda stinky, especially when you see folks who are well-connected politically, like Charles Kawakami, Sen. Kalani English and former Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, submitting applications as principles or investors. It's really hard to believe it's going to be solely merit-based, especially given the minimalist application process….

read … Musings: Stinky

Leader of Charter School Oversight Agency Hounded out of Office By Corrupt Charter School Operators

CB: The head of a state agency tasked with implementing sweeping legislative changes to Hawaii’s charter school system is resigning in the midst of pushback from school leaders who say they are being over-regulated.

Tom Hutton was hired three years ago to serve as the first-ever director of the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission. Lawmakers created the commission in 2012 as part of a broad overhaul of charter school regulations in the state….

Charter School Commission Chair Catherine Payne praised Hutton’s work and said she was sad that to see him leave.

“He has done a very good job of putting together a completely different organization with a different charge than existed before (Act 130)  in a very short time,” Payne said.

Hutton has been “under siege” for some time, Payne said.

Charter school employees curse at Hutton and commission staff on the phone, she said. During a meeting leading up to the closure of Halau Lokahi Charter School, Payne said an employee of the now-shuttered school threw salt on Hutton as a “sign of disgust.”

“I don’t think of educators as behaving in this way,” Payne said. “I’ve never experienced anything this terrible in the kind of treatment people (are) receiving.” 

In his letter to the commission announcing his plans to leave, Hutton highlighted a number of commission achievements including the “establishment of real performance contracts with renewal criteria, so many years after the establishment of chartering in Hawaii,” a more rigorous application process for new charter schools, and garnering a $14.8 million federal grant for pre-kindergarten programs.

“That said, much remains to be done in a charter system and a group charter culture that are a legacy of a unique and problematic evolution, coupled with years of benign neglect,” Hutton said….

read … Resigned

Kenoi’s Crony Ethics Board Continues to Obstruct

WHT: …An opinion is still pending on the acceptance of travel by a third councilman, Chairman Dru Kanuha of Kona, who accepted two free flights to Honolulu paid by the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii. Kanuha sponsored bills in 2013 and 2014 limiting tobacco products and electronic cigarette use.

Kanuha told the Board of Ethics he flew to Honolulu to accept a legislator of the year award from the group. The case came before the board after a complaint was filed by Big Island smoke shop retailer Mariner Revell.

After months of canceled meetings due to a lack of members, the Board of Ethics is at full strength, but you wouldn’t know it from Wednesday’s meeting, when only three of its five members showed up.

The County Council last week had confirmed two new members to fill the board, but only one of them, Rick Robinson, showed up. The other new member, Darnel “Pili” Kalele, and the board chairwoman, Ku Kahakalau, were absent. A call to Kahakalau was not returned by press time Wednesday….

The ethics case against Mayor Billy Kenoi after his admitted misuse of his council credit card, or pCard, was not on the agenda because the board was waiting for the complainant, Lanric Hyland, to be available following medical treatment.

Hyland testified Wednesday, saying he wasn’t aware it was up to him to put the item on the agenda.

The absence of the members led to the postponement of four agenda items relating to Kanuha, leading Revell to leave the room shaking his head and sighing loudly in disgust. It was his fifth time coming to a board meeting and having his complaint postponed….

read … Crony Obstructionism

Political Insiders Panic over Possibility of Elected Judges

HNN: A coalition of lawyers, judges and civil rights advocates came out in force Wednesday to try to shoot down a proposal to join 22 other states and allow Hawaii voters to elect judges.

State lawmakers are considering a bill that clears the way for a constitutional amendment that would no longer require judges to be vetted by a Judicial Selection Commission, nominated by the governor and then approved by the State Senate.

(Translation: We like the ethics of judges who are hand-picked by Clayton Hee.  Before that we liked the ethics of judges who were hand-picked by Gary Rodrigues.)

read … Proposal calling for elected judges in Hawaii faces criticism

Committee begins search for new Kamehameha Schools trustee

PBN: A screening committee, on behalf of the Probate Court, has launched its search for the replacement of Kamehameha Schools board of trustee Janeen-Ann Olds, whose reappointment was rejected by a Hawaii judge late last year, the $11.1 billion educational trust said Wednesday….

The pay for trustees is $165,000 annually, while the chairman is paid $207,000 a year.

Inkinen & Associates is conducting the search for candidates, who will be screened by a trustee screening committee made up of seven volunteer community members, including Wendy Crabb, George “Keoki” Freeland, Joanne Lo Grimes, Michelle Ho, Cheryl Kauhane Lupenui, Michael Rawlins and Kaiulani Sodaro.

This committee will come up with a list of three candidates to the Probate Court, which may appoint a trustee for a term through June 30, 2022, which could be extended for another five-year term by the court.

Olds, an attorney by trade, is president and CEO of Sandwich Isles Communications Inc., which has been under scrutiny because of the head of its parent company’s use of the business’s money for personal expenses.

Anyone interested in applying for the trustee position may inquire by email. The deadline to apply is April 8.

HNN: Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama headmaster stepping down

read … Plum for … ?

Honolulu Prosecutor Takes over Prosecution of Cult Boat operator

HNN: …"I am relieved that the prosecutor is taking it over. There has been some rumors, there have been some rumors for years that the DLNR has gone easy on regulating activities down there in general," said former state appellate court judge Walter Heen, who is Shim's uncle.

(Ooops!  Both the alleged perpetrator and the victim are politically connected--so now justice becomes possible.)

Sources say that City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro is looking at potential negligent homicide charges against the operator of the boat, 41-year-old Sai Hansen of Kailua.

Several witnesses have told Hawaii News Now that they saw Hansen's Zodiac speeding near the coast of Kailua on the day of the accident. According to records provided by city Ocean Safety officials, there were about 225 people in the waters all along Kailua beach about the time the accident occurred.

"I've received reports, several reports, of the activities of an individual down there with an orange zodiac racing up and down the waters," said Heen.

"The people in Kailua that I have heard from are crying out for something to be done to curb the activities of this one individual."

Usually a negligent homicide case involves a drunk driver who ends up killing somebody. But here not alcohol was involved so it's a misdemeanor. The misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to a year in jail.

"In this case, (the penalties) are not strong enough. To me it's an egregious case of mass negligence," said Heen.

Hansen was recently cited for operating a vessel without proof of a safety course card. But that charge will likely be tossed now that the prosecutor's office is is looking at a negligent homicide investigation….

Best Comment: "I think the more relevant connection is Tulsi’s father, State Sen. Mike Gabbard who Chairs the Senate Water, Land and Agriculture Committee. IF there was political pressure on DLNR to go soft on enforcing certain regulations, etc. in the area, his committee has the oversight responsibility over DLNR. So his kuleana would be greater than that of Tulsi’s (in this case) but it underscores the scary proposition that the cult members have people in positions of power at both the State and Federal levels of government."

read … Prosecution

HB2740: Legislators consider tough medicine for HMSA

SA: House Bill 2740 would hold health insurance companies liable for causing “undue delay” in medical treatment or services by requiring pre-authorization of medical tests. Its intent is a good one, taken in response to HMSA’s recent decision to cancel pre-authorization waivers that doctors used to expedite certain scans and tests. After protests by doctors and a story by Star-Advertiser reporter Kristen Consillio, HMSA said no worries — the policy change is only temporary.

read … Legislators consider tough medicine for HMSA

UH Rape Politics Enters Legislature

KL: If passed, a pair of bills would require the University of Hawai‘i system to adopt new student safety and sexual assault policies.

“HB 1249 attempts to establish a clear policy of ‘yes means yes.’ This policy ensures that predators cannot take advantage of a victim’s incapacitated state,” said Rep. Sharon Har, co-author of House Bill (HB) 1249, in an email.

Senate Bill 923, a companion bill to HB 1249, would require the UH Board of Regents (BOR) to adopt policies for investigating and responding to issues of student safety such as dating violence, domestic violence and sexual assault. The bills also set out clear guidelines “affirmative consent” in sexual activity….  

read … Rape Politics

Victims wait for justice as hundreds of rape kits go untested

KHON: …according to the Honolulu Police Department there are 1,500 sexual assault kits that have not been tested….

If HPD outsourced the testing, it could be done, but it would cost more than $2.3 million.

“Much of what was said is we don’t have the man power and we don’t have the labor and what that tells me and others is that it is not a priority for the department,” said Espero.

But with a new program being proposed by lawmakers there could be some changes on how the kits are handled.

The program would require law enforcement to submit sexual assault kits to a laboratory within 10 days.

Then the lab would have to complete the analysis within six months. Also, the number of untested kits would be submitted to the Attorney general every year….

read … Rape Kits

SB2316: HPV Vaccine Mandate

CB: …in an admirable effort to help prevent cancer, legislators have proposed Senate Bill 2316 and the identical House Bill 1910 that requires all students entering seventh grade in the 2017-2018 school year to provide documentation that they have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The Senate Bill has a hearing Thursday at 9:45 a.m. in Conference Room 229 before two committees — Education, and Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health.

The HPV vaccine is required to be paid for by insurance, with no copay, and it can be administered by pharmacists, in addition to doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

read … Will Legislators Stand up to Anti-Vaxxers?

WaPo: Obama has Failed, North Korea May Nuke Hawaii

WaPo: …The three-stage rocket launched Sunday, which supposedly put a satellite into Earth’s orbit, could also serve as an intercontinental missile. If North Korea has succeeded, as it claims it has, in miniaturizing a nuclear warhead, Kim could target Hawaii and Alaska, or perhaps even the western U.S. mainland. The threat is not imminent — and yet it is likely to become so if the United States does not devise a more effective strategy for containing and deterring the Kim regime.

President Barack Obama’s policy since 2009, “strategic patience,” has failed. The policy has mostly consisted of ignoring North Korea while mildly cajoling China to pressure the regime….

read … North Korea’s rocket launch shows that Mr. Obama’s ‘strategic patience’ has failed

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