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Monday, March 18, 2019
March 18, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:02 PM :: 2731 Views

The last time Congress created a new state

Honolulu Council Special Election Ballots to be Mailed March 21

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Star-Adv Says We Need Tax Hikes … Because Economy is Slowing

SA Editorial: … there is a trend underlying spending statistics: More visitors are coming “on the cheap,” staying in vacation rentals, shopping and dining less lavishly than a resort-district tourist typically would — a pattern likely to persist.

There are two predictable paths for legislators to follow: Raising more revenue and spending less.

On that first track, some holes could be plugged, retaining more tax dollars for this state. For example, legislation to disallow the real estate investment trust (REIT) deduction for dividends paid are still alive (Senate Bill 301 and House Bill 475); this change should be given serious consideration.

Or, new sources could be tapped: Taxing online retailers for sales made in Hawaii (SB 495) is another idea whose time has come.

Increases to the general excise tax, however, should be avoided, as this tax is broad-based and compounds costs through the economy, hurting the low-income taxpayer disproportionately.

As for spending, lawmakers should be cautious about expanding the size of government. Adding staff positions should be done only if essential, as these incur not only salaries but future liabilities for retirement and health-care benefits.

Of necessary spending, repairing infrastructure rises to the top of the list. Hawaii’s recently earned low ratings for its physical plant, underscoring the need for such a critical investment. For the moment, fixing what we have should take priority over starting new projects….

read … Caution required as economy slows

DPS Still Can’t Figure out how to Release Prisoners on Time

SA: … When an Oahu judge ordered Jacob Johnson released from jail after serving five days at the Oahu Community Correctional Center on a probation violation, Johnson assumed he was a free man.

But instead of walking out of the downtown Honolulu courthouse that day, he was rearrested and sent back to jail where he would sit for four months despite his numerous pleas to be released, according a wrongful-incarceration lawsuit filed on his behalf.

The state is now poised to pay Johnson $18,000 to settle the 2013 case — an amount that comes out to $141 for every day he was locked up.

Johnson’s case is an example of a larger problem of Hawaii inmates being held beyond their scheduled release dates….

“There is a real breakdown in the system so that inmates are not properly tracked. And it is not for lack of information on this problem,” said Honolulu attorney Myles Breiner, who is representing four inmates in lawsuits against the state. “This problem has been around from time immemorial.”

The state entered into a $1.2 million class-action settlement agreement in 2004 to resolve hundreds of claims arising from the state Department of Public Safety’s failure to timely release inmates. Former inmates received $1,000 for every day of over-detention and $3,000 if they had undergone strip searches.

The process of tracking down inmates and correctly calculating release dates was a mess, according to a report filed by the claims administrator in that case, who described a process of sifting through thousands of paper and electronic documents, some of them contradictory or deficient, while records in some cases were missing.

Harrington said that more recently the Public Safety Department has been conducting staff training to go over policies relating to tracking the release of inmates. The department is also in discussions with the Judiciary about ways to streamline processes and develop electronic transmission of documents. Currently, the systems of the Judiciary and Public Safety are completely separate, she said…. 

SA Editorial: Stop violations of inmates’ rights

read … Excessive prison time still a mess for inmates

Kealoha and Puana expected in court for drug related charges

KITV: … Former Honolulu Deputy Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha and her brother, Rudolph Puana are scheduled to make their second court appearance for drug related charges.

The siblings were indicted in February on 54 counts of abuse of power and illegal distribution of drugs. Both pleaded not guilty….

read … Kealoha and Puana expected in court for drug related charges

Judge Orders Release Of More Records In Case Of HPD Officer Who Beat Girlfriend

CB: … A 143-page disciplinary report that summarizes the Honolulu Police Department’s investigation of an officer who was caught on video repeatedly punching his girlfriend in a Waipahu restaurant must be released under Hawaii’s public records law, a Circuit Court judge ruled Friday.

Judge Jeffrey Crabtree had earlier ordered release of the arbitrator’s decision that reinstated Sgt. Darren Cachola even though he had been fired by HPD in connection with the 2014 incident.

The city and HPD had been prepared to release the decision so the public could see why an arbitrator gave Cachola his job back along with several years of back pay. But the police union — the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers — sued to keep it secret.

Civil Beat filed a public records request for the decision and investigative records and was allowed to intervene in the case….

read … Judge Orders Release Of More Records In Case Of HPD Officer Who Beat Girlfriend

Moldy Honolulu Council: $1.4M Plan to Go Alii with HART

SA: … Council Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi told colleagues last week that the 2020 legislative budget includes $1,385,568 to lease the 19th and 20th floors of Alii Place for a year.

The temporary move would allow a contractor to tackle mold, lead paint, asbestos and other health concerns that employees in the Council’s second-floor offices have complained about for a number of years, Kobayashi said….

read … Honolulu Council likely relocating offices to Alii Place

Federal Mandate forcing Hawaii to Overhaul Disabled Programs

CB: … In 2014, the federal government issued a final rule establishing enhanced standards that require states to offer people with developmental disabilities more opportunities to set their own goals, choose their own pursuits and dictate their own schedules. To comply with the rule, Hawaii health regulators are retooling the state’s programs and services to better cater to participants’ individual needs and wishes.

States have until March 2020 to implement the changes.

“It’s a watershed rule that says you can’t replicate the experience of being in an institution in the community,” said Mary Brogan, the division’s administrator. “We can no longer have people spending six hours a day doing a meaningless activity, like puzzles or building headsets for airplanes, where they are isolated from the rest of society. And that is how a lot of these people have been treated.” ….

The division serves nearly 3,000 Hawaii residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, Down’s Syndrome and Tourette’s disorder. Its annual budget is jointly funded by the state and federal government, which contributes about $1.13 for every state dollar. In fiscal year 2019, the state contributed $65 million.

To ensure ongoing federal funding, Gov. David Ige has requested a $7.7 million budget increase to the division’s budget in fiscal year 2020 and a $5.8 million jump in funding in fiscal year 2021. The funds would help implement planned program changes by providing higher pay to developmental disability workers….

Related:  Naming Names: Hawaii Politicians Profit from Sub-Minimum Wage Sweatshops for the Disabled

read … Creating A Better Life For Hawaii’s Developmentally Disabled

Isle taxpayers take loss on failed Kauai dairy plan

SA: … Private investment firm Ulupono Initiative lost a lot of money on its recently aborted plan to establish a dairy on Kauai, but so did local taxpayers thanks to a tax credit crafted by state lawmakers.

Honolulu-based Ulupono received $875,000 in state tax credits under a 2008 law that created incentives for landowners to preserve prime farmland for agricultural use in perpetuity.

Ulupono, owned by billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, qualified for the tax credit by investing in an agricultural operation on land it leased from another company that had its property preserved under Hawaii’s Important Agricultural Lands, or IAL, law.

Critics of tax-credit incentives said the result with Ulupono’s Hawaii Dairy Farms shows why such incentives amount to bad policy, given that the state gave up tax revenue that benefited a billionaire with a project that failed.

“It was kind of the worst-case scenario for pick-a-winner tax policy,” said local economist Paul Brewbaker of TZ Economics. “There is no dairy. Unfortunately, the state is left holding part of the bag.”

Over the years, other tax credits created by the Legislature have cost the state revenue while falling short of intended benefits.

In 2003, tax credits created for developing a “world-class” aquarium at Ko Olina Resort and Marina were partially claimed with no resulting aquarium. Another example was a 2001 tax credit program for high-technology industry investments that benefited companies that went bankrupt or left the state.

Local community watchdog Carroll Cox expressed concern that the IAL tax credits weren’t tied to agricultural production instead of spending. “They didn’t produce any milk,” he said of Ulupono. “We have great concern as would any taxpayer.”

Tom Yamachika, president of the nonprofit Tax Foundation of Hawaii, said tax credits with broad applicability make it harder to tailor results because you don’t know who will apply or under what circumstances.

“It’s kind of like opening the floodgates,” he said. “That’s part of the risk that lawmakers take with our money.”….

Ulupono claimed in 2014 that $3.2 million it invested in the dairy plan qualified for tax credits. The spending covered water infrastructure, feasibility studies, processing facilities, regulatory expenses and roads or utilities.

Omidyar’s firm was granted $625,000 in 2014 and $250,000 the following year. However, the Department of Agriculture said Ulupono didn’t claim the $125,000 balance of its $1 million maximum in subsequent years. Under the law, Ulupono could still claim the balance. The law also has no provision for returning credits that don’t result in viable agricultural operations….

read … Isle taxpayers take loss on failed Kauai dairy plan

Oceanfront Homes Keep Going Up Despite Rising Seas – Because Nobody Believes in Sea Level Rise

CB:  … Hawaii lawmakers are considering whether homeowners should have to tell buyers that their property is in a sea level rise exposure area — or SLR-XA as planners call it.….

The state Climate Commission and top climate experts have all recommended mandatory disclosure.

Department of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case told a Senate panel last month that it is critical for buyers to understand the hazards and risks they are assuming in purchasing oceanfront property, “in the spirit of transparency and disclosure and to support informed decision-making by buyers and government agencies.”

But the Hawaii Association of Realtors, representing 9,500 members, wants disclosure to remain voluntary….

(It won’t work.  Nobody believes in sea level rise.)

2006: Pierre Omidyar buys oceanfront Kahala house

read … Nobody Believes—We Have Consensus!

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