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Friday, April 28, 2017
April 28, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:33 PM :: 3569 Views

And the Winner is—Not Hawaii

Are local families fleeing Hawaii taxes?

State not exempt from family budgeting principles

To What Extent Does Your State Rely on Sales Taxes?–Hawaii 7th

US should rethink migrant aid in West Pacific

The Hill: How the Jones Act drives up the cost of food and gasoline for millions of Americans

Rep Beth Fukumoto Democrat? “Still waiting”

HGEA Contract Award 7% Pay Hike, 2 Years—Matches HSTA Per Year

SA: An arbitration panel has awarded raises to about 27,500 public employees in six bargaining units of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the union announced Thursday.

The awards include raises that will total about 6 percent to 7 percent including salary step increases, but vary between the units, the union said. The state and counties also agreed to increase their contributions for health coverage during the new two-year contract, according to HGEA, but the union did not provide details about the health contributions.

(Math: On a per-year basis, 13.6% in 4 years for HSTA matches 6% or 7% in 2 years for HGEA.)

The new raises take effect July 1 for members of HGEA, which is the state’s largest union.

The arbitration award affects HGEA’s Unit 2, which includes 800 blue-collar supervisors; Unit 3, which has 13,400 white-collar non-supervisory employees; and Unit 4, which is made up of white-collar supervisors.

Also covered by the award is Unit 8, which includes 2,400 administrative, professional and technical employees of the University of Hawaii and the state’s community colleges; the 1,700 members of Unit 9, which is made up of registered professional nurses; and Unit 13, which includes 8,400 professional and scientific employees.

HGEA will conduct informational meetings statewide to detail the arbitration decision to its members, the union said. The contract arbitration is binding but still requires that the state Legislature and county councils fund the awards.

HGEA’s other two units, Unit 6, Department of Education educational officers; and Unit 14, state law enforcement officers and state and county ocean safety officers are still in negotiations.

Contracts for all 14 of the Hawaii public worker bargaining units are scheduled to end on June 30. 

(And now we know that the HSTA contract is the model.)

read … HGEA members awarded 6 to 7 percent salary raises

House Proposes Using Hotel Tax To Finance Honolulu Rail Project

CB: House leaders surprised their Senate counterparts Friday with a proposal to use the hotel tax, rather than extending the GET surcharge, for the troubled project.

House conferees on Senate Bill 1183 surprised their Senate counterparts with the proposal, which includes ending the general excise tax surcharge in 2027 as currently scheduled.

Rep. Sylvia Luke, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee,  said shifting much of the financing to the hotel tax makes sense, given that Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has often explained (claimed) that tourists end up paying one-third of the general excise tax….

House and Senate conferees will reconvene at 1.30 p.m. Friday, with a 6 p.m. deadline for coming up with a deal.

The provisions of the House counter-proposal include:

  • Removal of the House’s proposed two-year GET extension for 2027 – 2029
  • Increase of the TAT by 2.75 percent from the current 9.25 percent to 12 percent for 10 years from Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2027

Revenue generated from the TAT increase would be distributed as follows:

  • $50 million set aside annually for education in a newly created education special fund
  • $1.3 billion will go to the Honolulu rail project concurrently with the GET surcharge revenue that the city is already receiving now
  • Reduce the distribution of TAT funds to the counties from $93 million to $80 million, with the difference of $13 million going to rail
  • Maintain the House position to lower the state’s share of the administrative service fee to from 10 percent to 1 percent
  • Give all counties the option to extend the GET surcharge
  • Require Honolulu to repeal any ordinance prohibiting use of county funds for rail
  • Prohibit the use of the GET surcharge revenue to fund HART’s administrative, operating and personnel expenses.

The House also called for a moratorium on redeveloping the Neil S. Blaisdell Center, which is estimated to cost nearly $500 million, so the city “does not fiscally over extend itself,” as Luke put it, and can focus on its top priority – rail.

read … House Proposes Using Hotel Tax To Finance Honolulu Rail Project

Too Little Too Late: Council Pretends to Take Step To Allow Use Of Property Tax For Rail Construction

CB: The Legislature is insisting that Honolulu leaders lift their prohibition on using city tax revenues for the project.

State lawmakers are still considering allowing Honolulu to extend its General Excise Tax surcharge for rail, but have said they won’t do it without a commitment from the city to come up with other funds for the $10 billion project.

The Honolulu City Council took the first steps toward complying with that demand this week by giving preliminary approval to Bill 42, which adds just one word — “city” — to the list of sources that can be used to fund rail. It would open the door to using property tax revenues.

Property taxes are the the city’s primary source of revenue, projected to pay for 48 percent of operating costs in fiscal year 2018….

The Legislature has a Friday deadline to act on the rail tax bill, Senate Bill 1183.

read … Council Takes Step To Allow Use Of Property Tax For Rail Construction

HB407: Legislators Table Health Savings Account Bill

SA: …lawmakers killed a bill backed by University Health Alliance that would have allowed employers to offer high-deductible health insurance plans that are paired with a health savings account.

UHA emphasized that under the bill employees and their employers could put money into a tax-free account, similar to a 401(k) plan, to cover medical expenses. They said the money could be rolled over annually to help save for future health care needs, while encouraging workers to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which could help drive down health care costs.

But the bill was opposed by labor unions worried that employees would forgo needed health care. Employees could end up paying hundreds of dollars in health care costs annually before the insurance coverage kicked in.

Rep. Della Au Belatti, chairwoman of the House Health Committee, moved that the bill be shelved for the year, saying that it was “getting tied up with our broader conversations about health care reform on the national level.” ….

HB407: Text, Status

read … No HSAs for Hawaii

Lawmakers 'disappointed' at lack of local finalists for DOE superintendent job

HNN: …"One of the reasons why I wanted a local candidate is it's very difficult in our society, in our culture, to get past the fact they're not from here, for the people that they have to deal with," Sen. Kidani said.

Kishimoto, one of the finalists, has been criticized for some of her policies as the superintendent in Gilbert, Arizona. A previous contract, in Hartford, Connecticut, wasn't renewed.

Chen's resume, meanwhile, includes a tenure as chief academic officer for Baltimore City's public schools that lasted only two years.

Despite the criticisms, former teacher union negotiator Joan Husted warns not to rush to judgement on their abilities based on what could be perceived as "excess baggage."

"If you look at all of our superintendents, virtually all of them had some baggage of one sort or another," she said. "And you have to look at it from the context in which it happened. So give them a chance."  …

Big Q: Overall, what’s your reaction to the two finalists for the schools superintendent job?

read … Lawmakers 'disappointed' at lack of local finalists for DOE superintendent job

HB1534 Lawmakers Advance Bill Allowing Mainlander To Be Police Chief

CB: …House Bill 1534 exempts the heads of county police departments from the requirement that they live in Hawaii for a year prior to their appointments.

The measure comes as the Honolulu Police Commission searches for a replacement for Louis Kealoha, who retired after being named the target of a federal investigation for corruption and abuse of power.

The measure would also eliminate a little-known rule that prevents some Micronesian immigrants from serving on state boards….

read … Advance

Oahu’s Neighborhood Boards Are ‘The Pulse Of The Community’

CB: Elections are underway for members of the island’s 33 volunteer advisory panels.

Related: Honolulu Neighborhood Board--List of Contested Races and Candidates 

read … Oahu’s Neighborhood Boards Are ‘The Pulse Of The Community’

HB1536: Enviros Freak Out Over Water Bill

CB: House Speaker Joseph Souki and Rep. Ryan Yamane introduced House Bill 1536 to help farmers by clarifying that the Board of Agriculture can use eminent domain to acquire and run irrigation systems.

The proposal also sought to ensure that those state-owned irrigation systems would be exempted from oversight by the Public Utilities Commission.

The bill received strong support from farmers and groups that represent the agricultural industry, along with the state Department of Agriculture.

“Affordable and reliable waters for irrigation is a basic requirement for sustainable agriculture,” wrote Randy Cabral from the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation in supporting testimony.

Townsend says the Sierra Club supports the idea of clarifying the Department of Agriculture’s eminent domain power and exemption from the Public Utilities Commission. But she said that an amendment added by the House could have unintended consequences by exempting private distributors of non-potable water from oversight as well.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Dean Nishina, who leads the Hawaii Division of Consumer Advocacy, raised similar concerns.

HB1536: Text, Status

read … Freak (out) of the Week

OHA vs Sovereignty on Obama Tuna Monuments

CB: …On Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order in Washington ordering Ryan Zinke, secretary of the Interior, to conduct a review of national monuments created under the Antiquities Act of 1906. He is calling for additional study of all preserves established since 1996 that cover more than 100,000 acres, which includes Papahanaumokuakea, and about two dozen other monuments around the country.

Kitty Simonds, executive director of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, a long-time opponent of the expansion of Papahanaumokuakea, is welcoming Trump’s intervention. In an email to Civil Beat, she called Trump’s executive order “appropriate.” ….

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs said the preserve has wide public support.

“OHA stands behind the countless Native Hawaiian traditional and customary practitioners, navigators, scientists, conservationists, and others who called for the 2006 creation and the 2016 expansion,” OHA said in a statement. “We believe that the current size and structure of this monument, and OHA’s place as co-trustee for the area, should be maintained.”…

The photo of the signing ceremony showed which politicians around the country had been active in lobbying for Trump’s administrative action. They included elected officials from Alaska, Utah, California, West Virginia and Maine, where Republican politicians have objected to the creation of large national monuments in their states.

Three Pacific Island representatives were also prominent in the picture, U.S. Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, a Republican who serves as House of Representatives delegate from American Samoa; Gov. Ralph Torres of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands; and Gov. Eddie Calvo of Guam.

Torres and Calvo are Republicans who were early supporters of Trump. Radewagen served on the Trump administration’s transition team….

Rep. Radewagen of American Samoa sees it as a sovereignty issue.

“Our people have been cut off from access to regions of the Pacific that we have fished for over a millennium,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to the corresponding actions that will come to us as a result of this review, and getting our fishermen back on the waters that have sustained use long before any relationship with the United States….

read … Battle Lines Are Reforming In Hawaii Over Papahanaumokuakea

Soft on Crime: Harass a Monk Seal, Win $30K for Resisting Arrest

HNN: A $30,000 settlement has been reached in a lawsuit alleging a Honolulu police officer used excessive force in arresting a man reported to be harassing an endangered Hawaiian monk seal….

Video by the NOAA volunteers shows Rice kneeling next to the seal before walking away as the officer follows. The officer hit Rice with the baton several times until Rice fell to the ground.

read … $30K settlement for Honolulu police excessive force lawsuit

Humane Society Claims it Cannot Take Vicious Dogs from Tweeker Camps

HNN: Over the past several days five people have been bitten by loose dogs at Kakaako Waterfront Park. In each case the animal belonged to homeless campers.  But according to the Hawaiian Humane Society, laws don't permit officials to confiscate an animal, even after an attack.

The most recent bite happened late Wednesday afternoon. The victim was a social worker for the homeless. 

"They were surrounded by about seven dogs and one or two of them actually bit him," said Connie Mitchell, Executive Director Institute for Human Services.

It's estimated there are between 20 and 25 dogs that belong to homeless campers at the park. Some are tied up while others roam free. There are even puppies.

The Executive Director at the Institute for Human Services says it's a problem that's happening at encampments across the island.

"They've been encountering dogs in the Nimitz area.  They've encountered dogs in central Oahu. Where ever you go it's kind of part of what we've come to expect," said Mitchell.

The Hawaiian Humane Society says removing animals is complicated.  The only time the agency can legally confiscate a dog is if it's loose and the owner is not present, or if the animal is being abused.  In most cases the owner has the right to keep the dog -- even if it bites…..

read … Tweekers and their Dogs

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