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Friday, February 10, 2017
February 10, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:56 PM :: 8712 Views

OHA Old Guard Retakes Power: Machado Selected as Chair

Crabbe Contract: Abigail Kawananakoa Sues OHA

Ige Appoints Campaign Manager Circuit Court Judge

HTDC Gives Away $9.8M of Your Tax Dollars to Six Tech Companies

Senate Committee Turns Rail Tax Bill into Christmas Tree

CB: two state Senate committees on Thursday elected to not vote on that chamber’s primary “vehicle” for funding the over-budget Honolulu rail project.

Instead, the measure will be so heavily amended that it will require another public hearing.

Sen. Lorraine Inouye, chairwoman of the Transportation and Energy Committee, described the possible changes to Senate Bill 1183 as “substantial.”

The changes, for example, could call for extending Oahu’s 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge indefinitely — or only to 2032, which is five years from when the surcharge is set to expire.

When Inouye’s committee and another chaired by Sen. Clarence Nishihara heard the bill Monday, the plan was to amend the bill to delete any reference to the state’s 10 percent administrative fee on the surcharge and to replace it with an unspecified dollar amount.  The surcharge would be extended in perpetuity.

Nor would any money from the “skim” go to the state Department of Transportation to help fix and maintain roads and highways. But that idea is still under discussion, too.….

SB 1183 might still end up calling for each of those provisions. But it also might not.

Inouye described for reporters and others a lengthy list of other ideas that could find their way into the bill.

They include:

  • the establishment of a tax credit for low-income earners, in recognition of the regressive nature of the GET;
  • allowing all four counties to adopt a county surcharge by July 2018 to help the local governments address their own transportation concerns;
  • the neighbor island surcharges would be “equal or similar” to Oahu’s;
  • the state could be allowed to retain some of the surcharge money to put into the state highway fund;
  • the state could administer all county surcharges, as it currently does for Oahu;
  • part of the surcharge could go to transit-oriented development infrastructure along the rail line;
  • the Hawaii Community Development Authority might transfer some land parcels to the city and the state;
  • there could be the creation of a bus rapid-transit lane to connect central Oahu and the Pearl Highlands rail station;
  • a second access road to Leeward Community College might be built;
  • permitting might be expedited for zoned land within a one-half-mile radius of the rail stations; and
  • money could also be transferred to support education, affordable housing and elder care needs.

…What’s more, there could be others by the time the new draft of the bill is ready to be shared publicly sometime Monday….

read … Hawaii Senate To Make Substantial Changes To Rail Tax Bill

HIDOT Money Grab: Proposed fines for texting, speeding, seat belts, drunken driving may put motorists in poor house

KHON: One-hundred and twenty people died in crashes last year and state transportation officials believe they can get some money out of this ….

That’s why a huge increase in the fines motorists face is being considered by lawmakers.  DOT supports raising the fines for texting from $250 to $750.

Use your phone in a school zone and it goes from $300 to $900.  If you speed, the fines could go from the current $500 up t0 $3,000

Forget to wear your seat belt and instead of $45 you'd pay $135.  Drive under the influence of drugs, or alcohol, and the fines would soar from $150-$1000 up to $450-$3,000.

"The fines may be high, but I would rather give someone a ticket and pay a fine rather than have them involved in a fatality. That’s what I want them to understand. We are pushing to save lives. That’s it,” said Sniffen….

Prosecutors worry their office will be stretched to the breaking point, as they try and balance criminal cases with traffic cases.  That argument, however fell on deaf ears at and the Senate Committee on Transportation passed out the six bills un-amended.  DOT said the move isn’t a money grab on its part…. (KNOW THEM BY WHAT THEY DENY!)

read … HIDOT Money Grab

Star Adv: GE Tax on Internet Sales to Take Away Rare Perk

SA: Of course, consumers here have relished making online purchases for which the website does not collect a local tax from them. Hard-pressed to deal with the state’s high cost of living, skipping the tax on the bottom line has felt like a rare perk….

The introduction of House Bill 345, among other pieces of legislation this session, is an attempt to correct that….  (Evil Laughter.)

the bill would set a $100,000 threshold as the minimum amount of business an online retailer must do in Hawaii before tax-collection duty would kick in.

There are some tweaks that may be needed in the legislation. For example, on HB 345, the state Department of Taxation (DOTAX) submitted testimony questioning one proposed exemption: Businesses that run a website hosted on a computer located in Hawaii but unaffiliated with the business wouldn’t have to collect or remit the taxes.

The department rightly questioned why a business with a Hawaii-based website would bear less tax responsibility than others.

DOTAX also registered some concern that the state could be sued by a business asserting that physical presence is required. That may be so, but it’s not sufficient reason to hold the bill.

The courts have taken a range of positions that have not yet resolved. As recently as November, the state Supreme Court in Ohio found that a $500,000 sales threshold was enough without physical presence.

read … Another Tax Hike

$36M REIT Tax is Back (again)

SA: House Bill 1012….  It is the fourth year in a row that local critics of REITs (competing developers) are trying to persuade lawmakers to abolish a more than 50-year-old tax exemption in Hawaii….

The tax exemption is part of federal rules governing REITs that Congress established in 1960….

The only state that doesn’t allow the REIT tax deduction is New Hampshire….

Paul Brewbaker, a local economist who produced a 41-page economic impact study on the tax issue for the REIT industry last year, agreed that little revenue would be gained by killing the deduction. He added that if REITs sell their Hawaii property, they could be replaced by tax-exempt institutions such as pension plans and foundations. He also said it’s not fair to tax a corporation on income that the corporation can’t keep and then tax it again after it’s passed to shareholders.

“Double taxation is never a good idea,” he told the committee.

Rep. Tom Brower, Housing Committee chairman and a sponsor of the bill, said a decision would be made on the bill next week….

read … $36M Tax Hike

HSTA Announces Contract Demands

CB: Last month, HSTA made the unprecedented move of releasing its negotiation proposal in an email to members. This level of transparency was one of Rosenlee’s key promises.

The multi-level proposal highlights six main areas that HSTA has identified as needed to create a better educational system.

Appropriate teacher evaluation: Get rid of the Educator Effectiveness System, which is proving time consuming and impractical. There have been steps to decrease workload in the evaluation, but the union would like a totally new system implemented.

Fair compensation to attract and retain teachers: Pay teachers better so fewer teachers leave and more people want to become teachers. This has been partnered with HSTA’s effort to pass a constitutional amendment to increase second-home property taxes to fund a more competitive teacher salary.

Teaching and learning environment: Using contract language to reduce class size and improve classroom conditions was successful for the Seattle and Chicago teacher unions, but they went on strike for those provisions.

Teacher and school empowerment: This concept is also alluded to in the new Department of Education strategic plan. Greater control of individual schools and classroom content seems to be a mutual want for both sides, but how does that affect statewide curriculum?

Protect and support teachers: The most interesting aspect of this section is proposal 40, which would flip the language of the contract from being inherently male, using words like he or his, to female.

The Every Student Succeeds Act: HSTA wants further input on the rollout of the new educational plan defined by the ESSA law.

HSTA stepped up this tactic further by releasing a key provision of the state’s proposal: an annual 1 percent lump sum bonus for every teacher.

By the union’s math, this would be approximately $550 per teacher.

read … Contract Demands

Anti-Fishing Nuts Come Up with New Trick to Shut Down Fleet

SA: Hawaii authorities may have been violating their own state law for years by issuing commercial fishing licenses to thousands of foreign workers who were refused entry into the country, The Associated Press has found.

Under state law, these workers — who make up most of the crew in a fleet catching $110 million worth of seafood annually — may not be allowed to fish at all, the AP found.

A recent industry-sponsored assessment of crew members’ treatment and living conditions found no human trafficking…. (And we are verrry disappointed, so this article is ‘Plan B’.)

(Always looking to kill off agriculture and fishing jobs,) Democratic state Rep. Kaniela Ing, chairman of the Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs committee, has queried Chin and other state officials at length about why the men cannot leave their boats….

FN: Hawaii Seafood Council Refutes AP's Labor Abuse Claims in Commercial Longliner Fleet 

read … Latest Trick

Maui: Homeless Flood Emergency Room

MN:  …For many, this barrier was a lack of identification or health insurance, she said. Without a place to store their personal documents, many had either lost these important papers or been robbed (by other homeless people). Setting up appointments and qualifying for discounted care was difficult without documents.

For those who could get appointments, some found it difficult to meet them, due to a lack of transportation or ways to keep a schedule.

“Not every one of them can pull together their schedule in their lives because they’re so busy seeking shelter meth,” said Helene Cannella, member services director with Malama I Ke Ola Health Center. “By the time these individuals get the medical help that they need, they’re in such dire straits that they’ve got to go to the ER.”

As health care providers, “it’s not our job to figure out why you’re homeless,” Cannella said. “Our job is to figure out how we can help you while you’re homeless (ie keep you on the streets).” ….

read … Emergency room often easiest route for homeless health care

Lawmakers puzzle over how to allow pot to be carried inter-island

HNN: …proposals before the state Legislature are drawing concern from the state.

State Attorney General Doug Chin said once a plane leaves and island and is three miles offshore, it's no longer in Hawaii.

"You're in international waters and that's the difference," Chin said.

Chin said marijuana is still illegal at the federal level -- and all airports, aircraft, and air space are under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

Three miles offshore, patients (and pilots) would have no state protections.

"There's pilots who are concerned that they could actually lose their license," Chin said.

Other states do allow patients to fly with medical marijuana, but Hawaii's status as an island state complicates things.

State Rep. Della Au Belatti, chairwoman of the House Health Committee, wants Hawaii's Transportation Department to take a look at what's working around the country.  Portland International Airport, for example, allows passengers to carry small amounts of marijuana on flights within Oregon. And in California, both Oakland and San Francisco Airports are medical marijuana-friendly.…

SA: SB174 would lengthen list of pot-aided ailments

read … Lawmakers puzzle over how to allow pot to be carried inter-island

Honolulu police commissioner injured in domestic assault

HNN:  A domestic dispute that left a Honolulu police commissioner injured is raising questions about whether police should hand the case to an outside law enforcement agency.

Honolulu Police Commissioner Marc Tilker needed stitches to his head Tuesday night.  His wife, Charlene Ushijima Tilker, a well-known obstetrician, was arrested and charged with second-degree assault, a felony that can carry up to five years in prison.  She was released on $11,000 bail.

She's accused of using a hair dryer as a weapon. The police complaint says she intentionally caused “substantial bodily injury” to her husband.

Sources say another family member called 911 to the Manoa home following the dispute and that Marc Tilker was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where doctors stitched a 2-inch gash on his head.

Her husband is a businessman and was recently reappointed to the commission that forced Police Chief Louis Kealoha to retire.

Sources say the Marc Tilker and Kealoha are friends -- and that relationship, along with his position on the commission, are raising questions about how the case will be handled….

read … Honolulu police commissioner injured in domestic assault

Hundreds of corrections officers call in sick during NFL championship game

KHON: The Department of Public Safety says on Sunday, Feb. 5, 260 of 733 workers assigned to staff the state’s prisons and jails called in sick.

That’s up from last year, when 230 workers called in sick, and from 2015, when 255 workers called in sick.

Officials say despite their absence, all planned programs, including visitation, were held as scheduled….

read … Sick of Football

$11.5M to Make UH Education Free to Low Income Students

CB: Two bills that would appropriate millions for low-income students to attend University of Hawaii schools cleared their first hurdle at a House Higher Education Committee hearing Thursday.

Another pair of companion bills in the senate have also been written with the help of UH and the governor’s office, Sen. Kai Kahele, Higher Education Committee chair said. One of those bills, Senate Bill 1162, has been scheduled for its first hearing next week.

Under the “Hawaii Promise” bills, the state would pay a resident’s unmet tuition needs after they’ve accepted all financial aid available to them via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. As long as funding is still available, scholarships would be given out on a first-come, first-served basis.

Senate Bill 135 and its companion, House Bill 1591, would allow students to attend UH community colleges for free, while SB 1162 and House Bill 1594 aim to cover tuition at all campuses including the universities.

To be eligible for the Hawaii Promise, community college and university students will need to take a certain number of credits per semester. University students must maintain a certain grade point average, which is still unspecified.

Both House bills were passed with amendments Tuesday and received “defective dates” (a common practice during session) of 2050. If all goes well, committee Chair Justin Woodson told Civil Beat after the hearing that the original effective date of July 2017 will be reinstated.

HB 1594, which targets all UH campuses, was amended to appropriate $11.5 million dollars — about $2 million less than the original proposal — and require students to take 12 credits per semester instead of 15.

read … ‘Free’

Hawaii—Fewest Uninsured in USA

GH: …Through the end of 2016, 10 states had uninsured rates below 7%: Hawaii, Massachusetts, Iowa, Minnesota, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and North Dakota. West Virginia is the notable exception, as it is among the 10 states with the sharpest uninsured rate reductions since 2013 and among those with the 10 lowest uninsured rates overall in 2016.

For the ninth year in a row, Massachusetts had the lowest uninsured rate nationally in 2016, although it tied for first for the first time (with Hawaii, at 3.2%)….

read … Gallup Healthways

Muslims Pleased by 9th Circuit Court

SA: …Plaintiff lawyers for the states of Washington and Minnesota argued that Trump’s ban was illegal for a number of reasons, including religious discrimination. Trump’s attorneys argued the president had the right to make the executive action based on separation of powers and that the order was meant to keep potential terrorists from entering the country.

Hakim Ouansafi, chairman of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, said the court’s decision is a prime example of how the American system works. He said the decision sends the message that United States’s values haven’t been hijacked by the far right and that the system works. “There are checks and balances,” he said.

Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order banned immigration for 90 days from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan.

Ouansafi said the decision has affected scores of immigrants, including some families in the state. “When you ban seven nations, you’re actually banning grandmothers from visiting their children … (and) children from receiving medical attention,” he said.

Ouansafi said many affected immigrants are reluctant to speak out for fear of retaliation by the federal government.

Hawaii Republican Party Chairman Fritz Rohlfing supported the president “in his efforts to secure our borders and to keep Americans safe at home,” and he noted that the court “did not take issue with the president’s power to issue the executive order in the first place.”

University of Hawaii professor Ibrahim Auode said the court’s decision shows how democracy, including the Bill of Rights, is entrenched within the American people. “This kind of haphazard executive order really flies in the face of everything that’s good about the United States and its people,” said Auode, a Palestinian immigrant and former chairman of the University’s Department of Ethnic Studies….

read … Muslims

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