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Friday, April 6, 2018
April 6, 2018 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:26 PM :: 5040 Views

Hawaii taxpayers shackled by tax burden

Hawaii: Need $153K Salary to Buy Average Home

Mandatory paid sick leave wrong medicine for Hawaii economy

SB2922: HSTA Property Tax Hike Now Hits All Local Renters

SA: …the (HSTA) ballot question was pared down this week, (and) now throws too wide a net....

SB 2922 was advanced Wednesday by the House Education Committee by an 11-0 vote, after eliminating both the TAT component and the $1 million threshold above which properties would be taxed.  (Translation: HSTA tax will hit all apartment buildings.  The HSTA tax will be passed on to renters in the form of higher rent.) 

(Additional Note: The language of SB2922 referencing ALL investment property would also result in office, retail, and industrial owners passing on the additional taxes to the tenants that lease space from them.  This includes virtually all businesses in Hawaii aside from those who own the properties they occupy.  These are small businesses who already have to deal with high rents and cost of doing business in Hawaii.)

(And ... Land leases would be taxed creating a double taxation for anybody renting a leasehold.)

The measure’s proponents surely were aiming at a (dreaming of an easier-to-sell) proposal that would steer clear of most local residents (but now they're stuck with trying to convince voters to tax themselves)….

it’s not entirely evident what effect this increased funding will have on the quality of the classroom experience. Will it be spent well? Will lawmakers simply offset it by redirecting part of the schools’ usual allotment?

And would other departments, hungry for revenue, insist on their own tax-generating sources?

Further, throwing money at a problem is not by itself the answer. The state Department of Education’s inefficiencies are factors that put the potential for improvement in question….  

SB2922: Text, Status

Big Q: What do you think of a “school tax” constitutional amendment to let the Legislature create an investment-property surcharge for education?  63% “Don’t Even Ask—Just More Taxation’

read … Let public decide on tax for schools

Gut n Replace: HB2010 ‘Will Reverse Hawaii’s Tourism Future’

PBN: …After a less-than-favorable audit, Hawaii lawmakers are pushing to hold the Hawaii Tourism Authority more accountable through a bill that would slash the state agency’s funding.

The latest draft of House Bill 2010, which HTA CEO George Szigeti has said would “unravel the mission and purpose of the Hawaii Tourism Authority” and “reverse Hawaii’s tourism future,” recently passed the Senate Ways and Means committee.

Sen. Glenn Wakai, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Tourism, and Technology, said the audit spurred the gut-and-replace version of the bill, which originally started out with the purpose of forgiving the bond debt obligation on the Hawaii Convention Center owed by HTA, with the debt to be treated as a public debt of the state….

Big Q: Do you agree with the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s refusal to pay $6 million to bring the Ultimate Fighting Championship (MMA) here this summer?

read … Lawmakers say HTA bill will ‘thrust accountability’ on state agency

HB1985: OHA Testifies in Support of Gut–n-Replace Mauna Kea Management Bill

KITV: …To get around the stall, Kahele gutted a House bill relating to land use and copied language from his old bill into it. That move bypasses the House for now and kept an opportunity for testimony going in the Senate.

"UH has not done its job, I do not believe they should be giving another opportunity to mismanage that mountain," Trisha Watson, supporter of HB 1985 said.

"Uncontrolled and un-managed access to Mauna Kea has created what we consider to be chaos and unsafe conditions on the mountain and has exacerbated tensions with native Hawaiian practitioners," Jocelyn Doane, Office of Hawaiian Affairs said.

"Senators, you are on the right track, you need to continue, you need to continue to pull people together. However, this ends we would never be where we are today in striking a new balance on that mountain," Colin Kippen, another supporter of HB 1985 said.

While many testified in person in support of Kahele's replacement bill, dozens of others including the DLNR and UH submitted written testimony in opposition.

The bill passed through the Senate Ways and Means Committee Thursday. It will still need to be heard in conference where both House and Senate members would need to work out their differences…..

UH: We oppose Senate Bill 3090 and the revamped House Bill 1985.

Related: Crabbe Stabs Telescope Protesters in Back--Supports SB3090

read … Mauna Kea

TVRs: Appleseed Makes A Fool of Itself

MN: …the headline announcing that one in seven residential units on Maui are vacation rentals is what will stick in most folks’ minds, affecting public opinion and eventually public policy.

The Appleseed report stumbled over the same residential issue that other Honolulu researchers — in particularly, the Hawai’i Tourism Authority — have in the past: the existence of some 11,000 condominium units on Maui, built between 1960 and 1990, that are permitted to vacation rent by their zoning.

In Honolulu, condos must have permits to vacation rent. These Maui units are a hybrid, mostly condo-hotels, but also partially residential. The Honolulu researchers keep treating them like residences, which results in statements like those that showed up in the Appleseed study that 1 in 3 homes in Lahaina are vacation rentals or that 1 in 7 homes on Maui are vacation rentals.

The report also stated that 93 percent of all 9,000 vacation rentals on Maui are “not permitted.” That’s true because the far majority of those units are permitted to vacation rent by their zoning. No permit is required….

read … Lies Debunked

Hanabusa’s House Budget De-Funds Maui Hospitals

MN: …Noting, for example, that the House budget does not have operating funds for Kaiser-affiliate Maui Health Systems, which has taken over Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital, Ige said that 8th District residents deserve representation and “that there are many important decisions that need to be made.”

Responding to suggestions that he not appoint someone to replace Souki for the last several months of his term, Ige said: “I don’t think it’s fair to the people of Wailuku and that district to say, ‘Look, your representation does not count.’ “

He said he told Maui Democratic officials that “I would definitely want a list from them as soon as possible.”

Once a list with three names is transmitted to him, the governor said he would interview the candidates “and name a replacement as quickly as I can so that the people in that district will be represented in the most important part of the session.”

Ige said that once he gets the party’s nominations, “it shouldn’t take me more than a couple of days” to make a decision on the appointee.

read … Ige wants fast action to replace Joe Souki

Mandatory Sick Leave One Vote Away from Governor’s Desk

HTH: House Bill 1727 would require employers to provide a minimum amount of paid sick leave to employees unless the employees were paid a certain amount more than minimum wage.

HB 1627, meanwhile, would repeal a statute that allows employers to pay employees with disabilities less than minimum wage.

Finally, HB 2598 would establish a paid family leave special fund administered by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations that would allow workers to take paid time off to tend to family members….

The Senate Ways and Means Committee voted to pass each of the bills this week, with no senators voting no. … each bill now only requires a Senate vote before proceeding to the governor’s office….

read … Labor-related bills working way to final votes

HB2106: Non-Existent Sea Level Rise Must be Considered in all EIS

IM: Representative Chris Lee introduced HB 2106, a 108-word bill. “All environmental assessments and environmental impact statements prepared pursuant to this chapter, whether in draft or final form, shall include consideration of sea level rise based on the most recent scientific data available regarding sea level rise.”

The State House passed the bill with an effective date of Christmas Eve, 2088.  (It is gift-wrapped for somebody with good numerology.)

The bill has cleared its final Senate hearing as HB 2106 HD3 SD1 (Amended 4 times.) and is now headed to the Senate floor…. (This is going to conference where it will really be written.)

read … Hawai`i Sea Level Rise May Lead to Space Tourism

Bid for back taxes on online car rentals goes before state Supreme Court

HNN: The state and the nation's largest online travel companies squared off again before the Hawaii Supreme Court on Thursday.

The last time was three years ago, when the high court ordered Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity and others to pay $53 million in state back taxes for hotel room bookings dating back more than a decade.

Now, the state is arguing that the companies owe another $50 million in back taxes for car rental revenues it earned since 2004….

the ultimate decision on whether the state can tax online travel companies and Internet retailers like Amazon might not rest with Hawaii’s high court but with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court justices have agreed to hear North Dakota’s challenge to a 26-year-old case in which the high court barred states from collecting taxes from companies that don’t have a physical presence in their states.

Expecting a positive ruling, Hawaii lawmakers are now proposing to tax Internet companies that do more than $100,000 in annual sales and don't have a brick-and-mortar store here.

They said the measure could mean hundreds of millions more in taxes for Hawaii's treasury….

read … More Tax Hikes

Soft on Crime: Hawaii Supreme Court Rules Extra-Long Sentence for Domestic Violence with a Hammer to the Mouth is Unconstitutional

CB: Several offenders who were given extended sentences for their crimes by a judge, rather than a jury, may have to be resentenced….

In 2003, Robert Flubacher pleaded guilty to multiple offenses, including charges he assaulted three people in a Waikele home with a knife and hammer.

A state judge decided the 35-year-old man was a public danger and handed him an extended prison sentence.

Now the Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that Flubacher’s sentencing was unconstitutional. The state’s high court cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision that found that under the Sixth Amendment, a jury — not a judge — must decide whether the facts of a case make an offender eligible for an extended sentence….

SB: Flubacher got into an argument with a woman at her Waikele home on Tuesday, hit her in the mouth with a hammer and attacked the woman's two friends. Flubacher fled the scene in one of the victim's cars

PDF: Flubacher v Hawaii

read … Soft on Crime

Caldwell Wants A Sidewalk Sit-Lie Ban Everywhere On Oahu

CB: Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell plans to introduce what he calls a “somewhat revolutionary” bill to remove homeless people camping on public sidewalks.

“We want to take back our sidewalks that are designated for safe passage and not have to resort to walking into the street or to walk around people who are blocking their way,” he said at his State of the City address this week.

City spokesman Andrew Pereira said the mayor is looking at an islandwide measure akin to the city’s existing ban on sitting and lying down on sidewalks.

But lawyers who have sued the city in the past for measures they say criminalize homelessness (catchphrase) are waiting on the sidelines….

mayor pointed to three housing projects the city is building for homeless people in Iwilei, Moiliili and Waikiki. The projects would add more than 60 units to the city’s inventory for homeless.

“This is how we’re addressing the root cause of homelessness and we’re going to keep doing more,” Caldwell said.

Councilman Brandon Elefante said the mayor’s push to build more housing for the homeless is impressive and a smarter move than legalizing tent cities….

Almost a year has passed since the City Council passed a bill to expand the sit-lie ban along streets in Iwilei and Kapalama.

The results have been dramatic, said Matt Isoda, an instructor at Technics Jiu Jitsu and Legacy Muay Thai Academy in Kapalama.

“It’s just been a lot safer,” Isoda said. “People can actually utilize the sidewalk.”

There are fewer fights, less public defecation and less visible drug dealing, he said….

“It’s very uncomfortable to see people suffering (tweeking) on the street. Its very uncomfortable to be exposed to that (and the more discomfort there is, the more money our programs get from politicians),” said PIC director Jen Stasch (with editorial comments in parenthesis). “So it seems that you know, out of sight, out of mind, but let’s remember that just because people are out of sight  doesn’t mean that they’re not still experiencing homelessness in our community (so lets leave them on the streets in full view and keep the good times rolling!)”

(The rest of the article consists of the ACLU making excuses for its policy of leaving the homeless on the streets living in their own meth.)

read … Caldwell Wants A Sidewalk Sit-Lie Ban Everywhere On Oahu

Gill Family to Cash In--Developer Exploring Giant Wind Farm In West Oahu

CB: …The plan includes building up to 16 turbines in the Waianae mountains to pay for a massive land restoration project….

Gill Ewa Lands owns approximately 1,600 acres extending from the ocean near Kahe Beach Park into the Waianae mountains, including Camp Palehua, the wilderness camp formerly known as Camp Timberline….

(Translation: Good place to hide dead birds and bats.  Nobody will find them up here.)

One of the key issues will be the terms of an agreement between Eurus and HECO. Although both companies declined to discuss any details of possible talks, Eurus has made it clear that it expects HECO to treat the company fairly when discussing terms that can make or break a project economically.

(Translation: We want 20 cents per kwh, too!)

Specifically, in a document filed in January 2016, Eurus told the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission that it hoped HECO would “implement fair and transparent resource acquisition procedures that allow Eurus’ proposed renewable energy projects to compete on even footing with other proposed projects and any ‘self-build’ projects that the HECO Companies may propose.”…

(Translation: We want 20 cents per kwh, too!)

read … Developer Exploring Giant Wind Farm In West Oahu

Sinking Creates New Opportunity to Destroy Hawaii Fishing Fleet

AP: Khanh Huynh has been a commercial fisherman since he was 12 years old. For the past six years, he's been living on a fishing boat in Hawaii, catching premium ahi tuna for some of the world's most discerning consumers.

The 28-year-old fisherman from outside Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, recently saved the lives of two Americans and helped rescue five others after the fishing vessel he was working on sank hundreds of miles off Hawaii's Big Island.

But Huynh isn't the captain. He works 12- to 20-hour days for less than $10,000 a year in one of the most dangerous occupations. In fact, it's illegal for Huynh to act as the master of a commercial vessel in federal waters because he's not a U.S. citizen. But the American captain, who was supposed to be in charge of the Princess Hawaii, had never worked a longline vessel in the Pacific before.

A federal observer who was one of eight people on the boat said the Vietnamese worker was in charge of the vessel from the time it left port to when it sank.

"I never once saw the American captain make any attempt to operate the vessel, to issue any commands, directions or anything to make the vessel more seaworthy, more stable," the federal contractor, Steve Dysart, told The Associated Press. "I only saw him in his bunk."

The American captain, Robert Nicholson, declined to comment.

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating…..

read … Imported Fish in Your Future

Oahu’s biggest construction disputes

PBN: …Hawaiian Airlines Maintenance and Cargo Facility--Background: The Hawaii State Department of Transportation hired Honolulu-based DCK Pacific Construction to build a new hangar facility, which broke ground in 2013. A lawsuit in 2015 alleged there were deficiencies in the hangar’s construction and that DCK was not paying its subcontractors — the state responded by firing DCK. The incident got the Hawaii State Legislature involved, which passed a law in 2016 to pay subcontractors $10 million. Hawaiian Airlines paid more than $30 million out-of-pocket to complete the remaining work on the hangar, which opened in Oct. 2017, two years behind schedule.

Project cost: Original estimate, $85 million; final cost, $120 million

Status: Currently in litigation, trial scheduled for July 29, 2019 ….

Honolulu Joint Traffic Management Center-- Background: The City and County of Honolulu hired Watts Constructors to build a state-of-the-art facility that can house multiple government agencies under one roof — including the Honolulu police and fire departments, transit operations for TheBus and rail, and a 911 call center — to consolidate responses to traffic issues and public emergencies. Ground broke in 2015 and in early 2017, the city alleged there were several defects in the project, including that the roof was incorrectly installed.

Project cost: $54 million — $37.8 million was supplied by the Federal Highway Administration, the city paid $15.8 million.

Status: In February 2018, the city sent Watts Constructors a default letter, threatening to pull the contract if the company didn’t begin correcting construction issues that were cited. The project is currently nearly one year behind schedule….

read … Oahu’s biggest construction disputes

Politically Connected ‘Nonprofit’ Scores Free Oceanfront Real Estate and $8M Cash

SA: By the end of this year or so, a pavilion (allegedly) built to dry commercial fishing boat nets in Honolulu should be transformed into a job training and community center by a nonprofit helping at-risk teens and young adults (or something).

The nonprofit, Kupu, held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the $6 million project Thursday at the site fronting Kewalo Harbor and an adjacent waterfront park.

Planned improvements to the state-owned building, which Kupu is leasing for $1 a year (ca-chiiing!), include adding exterior walls (LOL!), a lounge, classroom space, meeting rooms and a commercial kitchen. Bathrooms in the building also will be renovated, and photovoltaic panels will be installed on the roof. Outside, a native plant garden, imu, picnic tables and event space are planned.

“We are not just restoring a building, we are restoring lives and the potential of Hawaii with our Green Jobs Training and Community Center (or something),” Kupu CEO John Leong said in a statement.

Kupu was awarded a lease last year for the 8,400-square- foot building by the Hawaii Community Development Authority, a state agency that built the pavilion in 1989-90. The nonprofit also obtained $2 million (Ca-chiiing!) for renovation work from the Legislature. The building’s use for net drying was short-lived because (that was just an excuse to build a nice club house for political cronies)....

BREG: Who is Kupu?

read …Work to transform former ‘net shed’ starts

Sen Akaka Dies at 93

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