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Thursday, January 24, 2019
January 24, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:43 PM :: 4712 Views

Finance Committee Passes Base Budget

Who's Getting Really Scared at OHA?

Small Business Poll: 88% Say 'No' to Minimum Wage Hike

Bum Patrol: City Extends Park Security Contract

HB939: State Ag Bill Restricts Hemp Growers More Than Feds Do

Hawaii 6th Highest Tax Collections Per Capita

Ige wants $40M -  33% Hike in gas tax, vehicle fees

SA: … Ige’s administration is proposing increases in the state gasoline tax, weight tax and vehicle registration fees to collect an extra $40 million a year for road maintenance and other highway projects.

In a bill submitted to lawmakers Monday, the administration proposed increasing the state gas tax from 16 cents per gallon to 22 cents per gallon for Oahu motorists, and from 16 cents to 21 cents per gallon on the neighbor islands.

The state Department of Transportation estimates that would cost an average Oahu motorist an extra $33 per year, although people who drive long distances or have less efficient vehicles would likely pay more….

This marks the third time the administration has proposed increasing the state gas and weight taxes and registration fees to boost the balance in the state Highway Fund, which pays for road maintenance and construction projects.

State lawmakers rejected the two previous attempts in 2016 and 2017, but last year passed a $2-per-day surcharge on car rentals by non-residents that is expected to contribute about $38 million a year to the Highway Fund…. 

PBN: Bills would increase Hawaii fuel taxes on gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel

HB1054: Text, Status

SB1280: Text, Status

Big Q: Do you agree with the governor’s proposal to raise vehicle fees and the gas tax to fix roads and highways?  (‘No Way’ = 70%)

HTH: State seeks gas tax hike


read … Ige wants higher gas tax, vehicle fees

Was Leong Sabotaging Police Commission with Purposefully Bad Legal Advice? – Friends of Leong Oust Levinson 4-3

HNN: … After Sheehan was re-elected, she supported the re-election of Vice Chairman Steven Levinson, who is a retired justice of the state Supreme Court.

In a surprise move, Commissioner Shannon Alivado, government relations director of the General Contractors Association of Hawaii, said she would also be interested in the seat.

She complimented Levinson, but also pointed out that her experience in the community would be a good balance given that that three of the seven commissioners are attorneys  (the Comm has been really hard on Leong and Caldwell might be next so it is time for the forces of corruption to shut this down).  

Sheehan argued in favor of keeping Levinson as vice chair, saying he had been invaluable assisting her in research and analysis of the laws and rules that govern the police department.

She also said he helped her through difficult legal issues and resisted what she called poor advice from the city lawyers.

That drew a response from another former corporation counsel who was appointed to the commission recently, Carrie Okinaga, now general counsel for the University of Hawaii.

Okinaga said the commissioners should not discount the advice from city lawyers, who have the legal duty and authority to represent them.

(Translation: She is supporting Leong.)

At that, Levinson argued that it was unwise for a client to blindly accept the advice of any attorney, especially when the advice is questionable.

Levinson said: “I am in agreement with the chair, that over the course of the last two years we have been on the receiving end of some, some, breathtakingly bad advice. And if we had blindly followed it we could be in a lot of trouble."

Despite the argument, the commission voted 4-to-3 to replace Levinson with Alivado as vice chair…. 

(Levinson was replaced by someone who thinks the Commission should accept Leong’s advice.  This is a victory for corruption.)

CB: Police Commission Opts For Public Hearings In Former Chief’s Case

read … Some Truth Comes out as the Forces of Corruption Win the Vote

Foster Care: State DHS to Delete Child Abuse Database

CB:  … The state of Hawaii has been…using unconfirmed reports of child abuse or neglect when evaluating potential foster parents or licensing day care facilities, prompting the federal government to order it to stop.

Federal law allows states to retain unconfirmed child abuse reports to be used in case of subsequent abuse complaints about the same parents or caregivers. The idea is that such reports, though not initially proven, might later help investigators establish a pattern.

But Hawaii’s Department of Human Services was going further, putting the unconfirmed reports on its central child abuse and neglect registry. Other DHS operations had access to the registry, including those that consider potential foster parents or license child care facilities.

“There is no legal basis for Hawaii to allow its child care licensing agency to have access to unsubstantiated reports of child abuse and neglect,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wrote in July in one of a series of letters. Instead, the department wrote, “the state is required  to promptly expunge those records.”…

Earlier this month, the state submitted a corrective plan and is working on technological changes so that confirmed and unconfirmed reports are in separate databases. In the meantime, the department has blocked those who should not be seeing unconfirmed reports.

“No one, as far as we can tell, was ever denied a license or registration because of a not-confirmed report,” said Keopu Reelitz, spokeswoman for the department.

But officials may have used the unconfirmed reports to “have a conversation” with people being reviewed because they wanted to care for children, she said.….

Meanwhile These Foster Parents Were Approved:

read … State Improperly Shared Unsubstantiated Reports Of Child Abuse For Years

Administrative costs of ‘value-based’ health care too high

SA: … Based on the theory that rising health costs are largely due to the incentive under fee-for-service to deliver unnecessary care, Medicare is pushing “value-based” payment as a replacement for fee-for-service. This means pushing insurance risk onto providers in the form of capitation for primary care, so that doctors make more money by delivering less presumably unnecessary care, and hopefully only care that has “value.”

HMSA has put all primary care doctors here on capitated payment since 2017. To counter unwanted “value-based” incentives to skimp on necessary care and avoid taking on sicker, more socially disadvantaged patients who may cost more, both Medicare and HMSA are requiring doctors to report detailed data for quality measures and risk adjustment, so that doctors can be paid more for higher-risk patients….

Data from Hawaii Pacific Health before and after capitation shows fewer patient visits per primary care doctor, a very slight reduction in avoidable emergency room visits and hospitalizations, a slight increase in specialist referrals, and overall not much difference in volume of care. Where are the savings supposed to come from if the model requires higher overhead but is not finding unnecessary care that can be eliminated?

HMSA premiums and Medicaid costs continue to rise much faster than inflation. The administrative cost of “value-based” payment apparently exceeds any savings, so no “value” has yet been achieved…. 

HTH: Big Isle physicians work to improve health care

read … Administrative costs of ‘value-based’ health care too high

Proposed wind farm meets with opposition

SA: … Leeward Oahu residents accused principals in the proposed Palehua Wind project of pushing forward without regard for environmental and cultural concerns and without considering the surrounding communities during a meeting of the Kapolei Neighborhood Board on Wednesday evening.

It was the first public airing of the issue since an April 4, 2018 community meeting hosted by Eurus Energy America Corp. A half-dozen people commented on the project, all in opposition….

Opponents previously have raised concern about the potential impact of the turbines on sacred areas and wildlife within the project area.

At Wednesday’s meeting, state Rep. Stacelynn Eli, who represents Ewa Villages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Lualualei and Maili, criticized Eurus for a “lack of transparency” in ignoring requests to discuss the project with the community.

Cynthia Rezentes, chairwoman of the Nanakuli-­Maili Neighborhood Board said, “The problem I have with this is we’re being asked to have the (Public Utilities Commission) approve the purchase-­power agreement before any information is presented to see whether or not placing that wind farm up there will be more detrimental than benign.”…

Related: Feds to PUC: Stop Approving Bat-Killing Windfarms without Endangered Species Permits

read … Proposed wind farm meets with opposition

Why a private-public prison makes sense

MW: … I know all the arguments against CCA but is its record any worse than our State government’s – regularly in trouble with the courts over crowding and inmate cases? ….

read … Why a private-public prison makes sense

Honolulu construction costs 4th highest in the world, RLB report shows

PBN: …Honolulu’s construction cost increases over the last year were the lowest in the nation, but the costs to build make Hawaii’s largest city the fourth-highest in the world, according to recent reports by Rider Levett Bucknall.

Oslo, Norway, topped RLB’s global construction cost relativity index in its construction cost report for the fourth quarter, and was followed by San Francisco, New York, Honolulu, then Paris….

Meanwhile, Ride Levett Bucknall’s crane index report for January found the number of construction cranes in Honolulu has dropped by nearly one half since last spring, ranking the city 10th among 11 U.S. cities.

Honolulu had six tower cranes in operation as of November, compared to 11 in May when the city also ranked at No. 10, on the biannual index released last week. Phoenix once again had the fewest cranes at five, which Seattle came in at No. 1 with 59, which was a decrease from 65 cranes last summer….

PDF: Report

read … Honolulu construction costs 4th highest in the world, RLB report shows

Republicans propose tax exemptions on food, medical services, feminine hygiene products

KITV: … No tax on food, edical services, and feminine hygiene products. How does that sound? It's a proposal from Republican lawmakers to help with Hawaii's high cost of living.

The measure, HB 610, would exempt certain foods, medical services, and feminine hygiene products from the General Excise Tax. Representative Lauren Matsumoto says dozens of states already have similar tax exemptions so it's about time Hawaii does too. …

We asked how much revenue would be lost if these categories are cut from the GET?

"There's a really high overestimate of $132 million. The Tax Department doesn't actually get the specific data on each of those categories; however, something we always talk about is efficiency in government. So one of the bills I'm introducing this year is for a financial database so you're able to exactly know what we're spending things on and so we are able to cut some of that wasteful spending," said Rep. Matsumoto, "you don't always have to come with additional taxes to make up the revenue. It's making sure we look where we can tighten up."…

read … Republicans propose tax exemptions on food, medical services, feminine hygiene products

Women’s Caucus Introduces Legislative Package

CB: Senate Bill 1036. “And even though many of our wonderful health plans claim that they cover all these services, we wanted to make sure that that was never an option — that it was going to be covered services and that it was going to be in the statute and it was going to be comprehensive services.”..

They call for extending the time for reporting child sexual abuse, amending the offense of strangulation of a family or household member to include blocking the nose or mouth or applying excessive pressure to the chest, establishing a centralized sex trafficking database and permitting people “bought and sold” in the sex trade to vacate a conviction for prostitution.

Senate Bill 1039 would allow people convicted of some prostitution crimes to request that the offense be vacated, so long as the person is not convicted again within three years of the initial conviction. The bill and its House companion state that “survivors” are “not criminals.”

read … Caucus Pushes Bills Addressing Violence Against Women

Proposal to Tear Down Aloha Stadium to Build a Smaller one and a Museum to Remember the Stadium they tore down

KHON: …The state hired consultants a few years ago to look into building a new stadium. It would be smaller, and cost at least 300 million dollars….

HB695: Text, Status

read … More for Less

How Plastic Cleanup Threatens the Ocean’s Living Islands

TA: … Imagine you’re on a small boat in the middle of the open ocean, surrounded by what looks like a raft of plastic. Now flip the whole world upside down. You remain comfortably attached to your seat—the abyss towers above you, and all around, stretching up from the water’s surface, is an electric-blue meadow of life. What you thought was plastic is actually a living island. This meadow is made up of a diverse collection of animals. The most abundant are blue buttons and by-the-wind sailors, with bright-blue bodies that dot the sky like suns, and deep-purple snails found in patches so dense one scientist described collecting more than 1,000 in 20 minutes….

read … How Plastic Cleanup Threatens the Ocean’s Living Islands

KIUC#1 in Battery Farming: “Don’t expect bills to drop anytime soon”

CB: …The Washington-based Smart Electric Power Alliance, a trade group, ranked KIUC first nationally in terms of the amount of electricity per customer that its system can store in batteries for release as needed.

Tiny KIUC can store more than 37 times as much electricity per customer as giant Southern California Edison, according to SEPA’s rankings.

KIUC ranked fifth nationwide in terms of the total megawatts of power it can store — behind only four enormous utilities that include Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, Tucson Electric Power and Pacific Gas & Electric. KIUC, in fact, is capable of storing only three megawatts of power less than PG&E, one of the largest utilities in the world, SEPA’s ratings say.

Hawaii’s Maui Electric ranked third in power stored per customer and ninth in total power storage capacity nationally. …

The Lawai plant was built and is owned by AES Distributed Energy, a national energy producer. It was constructed based on a long-term power purchase agreement under which KIUC pays 11 cents per kilowatt hour, making it second only to hydro generation (5 to 6 cents) as the cheapest source of electricity on Kauai.

The cost reflects rapid advances in the cheapening of solar power. KIUC’s first two large solar plants, which have only minimal battery backup, deliver power for 12 to 13 cents per kilowatt hour, while the Tesla solar-battery plant’s electricity is priced at 13.9 cents. For perspective, power generated by Kauai’s single biomass plant is double that price.

Bissell cautioned co-op members, however, not to expect bills to drop anytime soon. KIUC’s strategy for the future, he said, is to continue the rapid embrace of some of the country’s most innovative electrical technology and still hold today’s costs and bills essentially unchanged for the next decade or more….

read … Kauai: World’s Biggest Solar Power Plant Relies On A Flock Of Sheep

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