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Thursday, February 16, 2017
February 16, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:47 PM :: 3899 Views

OHA: The Mystery of the Disappearing Money

Hawaii 64 Structurally Deficient Bridges Identified

Hawaii Supreme Court Oral Arguments: When Is Election Law Admin Appeal "Brought?"

Economic Impact of Immigration by State—Hawaii 10th

HB1595: Involuntary Commitment for Mentally Ill

How They Voted: Assisted Suicide Bill Passes First Committee

Ward Poll: Hawaii Residents Reject Tax Hikes

PBN: …Despite the concern over traffic, only 43 percent of Oahu residents polled would support extending the GET to fund the completion of rail. Twenty percent said they would support increased property taxes to finance rail on Oahu, while 53 percent of Neighbor Island responders would support a GET increase to enhance public transportation options….

According to the survey, conducted by Ward Research, the top issues for residents on Hawaii Island are homelessness, drugs and traffic. Maui residents’ top issues were affordable housing, traffic and public education. On Kauai, traffic was first, followed by environmental concerns and crime/public safety.

“The goal of our survey was to establish a community benchmark and to begin a substantive dialogue on where the State is and where it is headed in two to five years,” said Susan Savage, president of the Hawaii Association of Realtors.

read … No New Taxes

GE Tax Hike -- SB 1183 a “multi-headed hydra of bad ideas”

CB: …The 60-page and nearly 14,000-word bill actually lumps together four distinct proposals on rail, transportation and other issues into one measure. Senators said that gives them plenty of options as they negotiate what ultimately should be included in the bill.

Opponents of the consolidation, sometimes described as a “Christmas tree bill,” cried foul. In his testimony before Senators on Wednesday, local resident Steve Miller called SB 1183 a “multi-headed hydra of bad ideas.”

In its written testimony, Common Cause Hawaii said the bill violates the state Constitution because it deals with more than one subject, and it urged Senate leaders to deal with all of its varied purposes separately.

Nonetheless, senators say they aim to narrow in on a clear, coherent bill as talks progress. “A lot of work still needs to be done on this measure,” Sen. Lorraine Inouye (D, Kaupulehu-¬≠Waimea-North Hilo) said Wednesday.

SB 1183 includes language in different parts that would extend the rail tax in perpetuity and extend it only five more years, until 2032.

It proposes enacting a low-income tax credit aimed at reducing the GET’s impacts on some residents and families. It also calls for the city to take ownership of disputed roads, build a bus rapid-transit lane across Central Oahu and create a new access road to Leeward Community College.

Sen. Breene Harimoto (D, Pearl Harbor-Pearl City-Aiea) said he had concerns over whether the city could handle such obligations to secure the tax extension.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said such agreements might have to be hashed out outside of the Senate’s rail bill….

Text, Status: Senate Bill 1183 and House Bill 349

read … SB 1183 a “multi-headed hydra of bad ideas.”

Ernie Martin: If Legislators Hike GE Taxes, I’ve got several Ideas on How Councilmembers can avoid putting skin in the game

SA: …The fact that an extension is currently under consideration at the state Senate demonstrates that completion of the rail project is a shared concern. Still, the city must justify the need for an extension along with reassurances that this time, projected construction costs are accurate.  (And now I will try to do that without myself voting for a tax hike.)

While the city must rightfully bear the brunt of the operation and maintenance of rail, I continue to maintain that there are innovative ways to share the cost of construction.  (Translation: You Legislators must vote for the tax hike, we Councilmembers will try to weasel out of the vote ourselves.)  The state could invest a share of federal highway funds to support rail construction; this is permissible, but would have to be closely coordinated with the project and closely mirror the route.

Given the many benefits rail will provide to our visitors, a link could be established with the tourist industry to generate funds for rail.  (Translation: Legislators could vote for yet another tax hike.) Landowners, developers and businesses who stand to benefit the most from rail need to get into the game in a serious way.  (Good idea.  And it doesn’t involve the Council voting for a tax hike.) They could fund the final eight stations in return for naming rights or concessions. They could also receive incentives and zoning exemptions that would allow them to recoup their investment in a relatively short time.

As the general excise tax (GET) extension is debated at the Legislature, I urge everyone to take a broader view of the statewide economic impact of the project. It is becoming increasingly clear that this project will benefit the state as much or more than the City and County of Honolulu….  (Translation: You Legislators are just going to have to vote for a tax hike while we in the Honolulu Council laugh at you suckers.)

read … No Skin in the Game

HB1586: Income Tax Hike on the Rich -- Counties could lose hotel subsidy

HTH: The measure, House Bill 1586, aims primarily to reduce income taxes on low-income and middle-income families, as well as seniors.  (And it raises taxes to 9% on earners over $112,500 and limits their deductions, which is conveniently left out of this article.)

Doing so would create a substantial dip in state revenue, however (they have no idea if this is true), which the bill proposes be addressed by implementing a three-year phase-out of an annual subsidy pulled from the Transient Accommodation Tax and disbursed among the counties. That subsidy totaled $103 million for fiscal year 2016-17.

If the state abolished the subsidy, it would force counties to make up millions in lost revenue by re-examining property tax rates. Supporters of the bill say Hawaii’s low rates are used by nonresident investors to their own advantage, allowing them to create tax havens in the form of multimillion-dollar properties in a state where they don’t contribute to the income tax base….

The bill limits the number of tiers on the tax schedule to four, creating larger brackets paying in at a lower percentage. In 2018, for instance, those filing under joint or head-of-household statuses and making less than $15,000 annually would pay no income tax.

Those on the second level, earning between $15,000 and $75,000, would pay nothing on the first $15,000 earned. Any income above that line would be taxed at a rate of 6.64 percent. The other two brackets designate rates for those earning between $75,000 and $225,000 annually, and those who earn more than $225,000 per year.

The income cap eligible for zero taxation would rise to $17,500 while rates for the next two brackets would decline marginally by 2020. The rate paid by those in the highest of the four income tax brackets would increase slightly, capping at 9 percent in 2020.

Those filing under single or married filing separate statuses would be subject to separate rates crafted with the same intention.

Onishi said there has not been any reliable data generated to determine the exact amount of revenue the state would lose by implementing the progressive taxation system proposed by the bill.

“It’s complicated to determine where in the bracket people actually end up,” he said. “That information is not readily available. There was a request to ask for a projected outcome, but it might not be possible.”

Even without hard data, Onishi said legislators understand the revenue decrease would be significant, as Hawaii has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation…..

HB1586: Text, Status

read … Counties could lose hotel subsidy: House bill that cuts income taxes advances

Bills on short-term rental tax collection advance

SA: On Wednesday, the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee passed House Bill 1471, a bill backed by Airbnb, that is similar to a measure vetoed by Gov. David Ige last year. A similar measure passed the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health Committee last week.

The bills still have a long way to go toward final passage and Ige indicated to reporters last week that he wouldn’t support a measure that didn’t include safeguards to ensure counties can verify that the rentals being advertised are legal. In vetoing last year’s measure, Ige said that the legislation “provided a shield for owners who choose not to comply with county laws.”

HB1471: Text, Status

read … Bills on short-term rental tax collection advance

SB221: Red-light cameras bill advances

SA: A proposal to deploy high-tech cameras for traffic enforcement by photographing the license plates of motorists who run red lights has been approved by two committees in the state Senate.

Leading House lawmakers say they are also ready to consider photo enforcement, citing reckless drivers who ignore traffic signals and speed through intersections across the state. House Speaker Joe Souki in particular has been a strong supporter of a number of photo enforcement proposals over the years.

Senate Bill 221 would authorize Honolulu and three neighbor island counties to set up the “photo red-light imaging detector systems” to use mounted cameras to snap pictures of vehicles as they run red lights. The counties would then be responsible for issuing citations by mail to the registered owners of the vehicles, according to the bill.

SB221: Text, Status

read … Red Light

Caldwell Affordable Housing Plan: Convert HART HQ to Condos 

SA: …The plan lessens the percentage of total units that developers need to set aside for affordable housing, but requires that they be targeted for those at the lower end of the affordable housing spectrum. The plan would require only 10 percent of for-sale units to be be priced for those making 120 percent of AMI or less, and that half of those units be aimed at those making 100 percent of AMI or less.

The developers would get a slew of other incentives, including waivers from paying sewer hookup, building permit and plan review fees. They would also not need to pay property taxes as long as their units stay affordable.

Those developing rentals, which are in greater demand, would be required to set aside only 5 percent of their units for those making 80 percent of AMI or less. The units would need to stay affordable for at least 30 years instead of the current 10 years.

Housing developers near Honolulu’s new rail line would need to set aside a larger percentage of affordable units in exchange for additional incentives such as greater height and density than normally allowed, and waivers from parking or park requirements. Such exchanges are already taking place between several Kakaako developers and the city under an interim policy.

Administration officials said the planned changes would not apply to several major projects that recently received rezoning.

Caldwell said the city has identified eight parcels that could be used for affordable housing in projects done jointly with the private sector. They include 17 acres in downtown Kapolei, 11 acres in West Loch, 18 acres between Leeward Community College and the city’s rail maintenance center, 10 acres in Kalaheo, 7 acres at the former Aiea Sugar Mill site, and properties surrounding the upcoming rail stations near Pearlridge Center and Ala Moana Center.

Converting privately owned office properties in downtown Honolulu to residential use is another proposal Caldwell is considering. He noted that the city owns the ground under Alii Plaza and owns a percentage of the building now used for office space by the city Prosecutor’s Office, the Honolulu Authority for Rail Transportation and the Honolulu Police Commission….

read … State of the City

SB1129: Senators Vote to Boost Insurance Company Profits, Kill off Expensive Patients, Enable Elder Abuse

CB: …Senate Bill 1129 would allow licensed physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill, competent adults who have a prognosis of six or fewer months to live. It was passed unanimously Wednesday by the Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Heath.

And its next stop is the Judiciary and Labor Committee, vice chaired by Sen. Karl Rhoads, one of the bill’s introducers.

A similar Senate bill died last year without getting a hearing, as did a House bill….

“At times there is no drug, there is no cure for some of these diseases,” said Michele Golojuch…. (Same old clowns in the same old circus.)

The American Nurses Association was among the medical groups testifying against the bill.

“Medical treatments are meant to treat an illness or a dysfunction of the body. There is no medical treatment for death,” said Jackie Mishler, a registered nurse.

Kokua Mau, a local hospice and palliative care organization, also opposes the bill.

Janette Koijane, who spoke for the organization at the hearing, called the legislation “premature.” She also cited concerns about how the bill would be funded and implemented.

Support from (political insider) John Radcliffe, who has worked as a lobbyist in the state for 41 years, may have helped the bill’s prospects this year….

“Don’t kid yourself, this is not a moral issue,” Radcliffe told the senators in at Wednesday’s hearing….

The committee made amendments to the bill before passing it. They include eliminating the “death with dignity” terminology and listing the cause of death on death certificates as the terminal illness.

read … Kill Na Kupuna

Candidate chosen for UH chancellor turned position down

SA: He declined to name the finalist or disclose his or her reasons for turning down the job.

“But I will say that the reasons in no way reflected on UH-Manoa or the qualifications, suitability and genuine interest of the candidate in the position,” Lassner said.

The other two finalists are not being considered. “The recommendation from the search committee was that there was one strong candidate with whom I should reach out in an attempt to bring that person here, and I did that,” Lassner said….

Who it was: Third UH Manoa Chancellor Candidate Magically Appears on Campus

read … Rejected

Police Chief Orders Full Review Of Toddler Assault Case

CB: A criminal case may be reopened in the assault of Peyton Valiente at an Ewa Beach day care operated by a police officer’s wife….

AP: Help Wanted: New Chief for Embattled Honolulu Police Force

read … Toddler

Deedy Case: Time To Let Go Of A Case That’s Gone Nowhere

CB: The Hawaii Supreme Court should reject the prosecution’s efforts to try Christopher Deedy a third time….

read … Nowhere

SB173: Let Convicted Felons Sell Legal Weed

PBN: It’s currently illegal for the state’s eight medical marijuana dispensaries to sell edible products.

Espero, D-Ewa Beach, was joined by state Rep. Della Au Belatti, D-Makiki-Manoa, on the panel addressing Hawaii’s medical marijuana legislation.

“Hopefully we can pass the legislation this year for edibles,” Espero said.

Espero called his Senate Bill 173“a Christmas tree bill,” saying the bill has the potential of opening the medial marijuana business up to “mom and pop type of operations working with the dispensaries, depending on how they craft legislation.”

Other measures in the bill, which passed its first committee last week, include extending the date requiring qualified patients to obtain medical marijuana only from a licensed dispensary.

“We’re looking to extend that date, especially since the dispensary system that we wanted has been delayed,” Espero added.

The bill also would allow convicted felons (like Senator J Kalani English and ex-Mayor Billy Kenoi) to work in a dispensary so long as they haven’t served time in prison in the five years preceding employment.

“If a convicted felon has spent five years as a good productive citizen, to me, why continue to punish someone who has paid their dues to society?” Espero asked.

read … Criminal Organizations

Trump draft order would make welfare recipients deportable

GP: A draft executive order from the Trump administration proposes to deport non-U.S. citizen immigrants who become a “public charge,” or who rely on U.S. taxpayer-paid welfare, the proposal states.

The draft executive order also would bar the entry of would-be immigrants who could end up needing welfare assistance once they’re on U.S. soil.

The Washington Post was among the first to make the draft executive order public on Feb. 13.

Radio New Zealand reported specifically that immigrants from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Palau could become unwelcome if the draft policy were to become final.

Thousands of citizens of these island nations have primarily made Guam and Hawaii their primary destinations of choice for relocating, a previous federal report shows.

read … Guam Post

Criticism of Gabbard-Assad Meeting Gives Muslims Political Opening

HNN: Gabbard authored a bill to stop (Obama’s policy of) arming (al-Qaeda) terrorists. 

(Muslims are very unhappy.  Are you surprised?)

The chairman of the Muslim Association of Hawaii is publicly criticizing U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard for meeting last month with Syria's president Bashar al-Assad.

"It is absolutely no different than saying we want to help the victims of the Holocaust, and then you go and meet with Hitler twice," Hakim Ouansafi said.

He said many Hawaii Muslims feel insulted. That's what compelled him to voice his concern….

Ouansafi believes many of Hawaii's Muslims feel that decision will come back to haunt her.

"Truly, this will go in history as a black mark in her record," he said.

read … Opening

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