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Wednesday, April 10, 2019
April 10, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:31 PM :: 3470 Views

PIT: Homelessness Down 21% on Big Island -- Volcano Forces Homeless to Accept Shelter

Final Crossover: House Approves, Amends 85 Senate Bills

Human Services Blueprint for COFA Citizens

New UH Manoa leadership structure approved

Health Department Audit: Material Weaknesses and Significant Deficiencies

Is Federal Recognition Dead or Dormant?

CB: … “Why you gotta bring up something that’s a dead issue?”…

I’m not convinced federal recognition is a dead issue. I think it’s dormant….

Only a few years ago proponents of federal recognition were hell-bent on seeing it happen. They were coming straight through anything in their path, including those of us who stood in their way. It all seemed well lined up:

  • Barack Obama was considered a president friendly to Hawaiians and supportive of federal recognition
  • Obama appointed a leading advocate for federal recognition as undersecretary of Interior for insular affairs
  • Federal rules were passed that would pave the way for it to happen, circumventing congressional approval

(EDITOR’s NOTE: This conveniently skips the period 2009-2010 when Dems controlled House & Senate and Obama was in WH.  Instead of passing the Akaka Bill and putting it on Obama’s desk to sign FedWreck advocates spent two years rewriting it.)

Various delays, some in part due to the gridlock of Washington and others in part to strong, vocal opposition on the ground here in Hawaii stalled implementation of federal recognition during Obama’s terms, yet advocates seemed convinced of a Hillary Clinton victory and her willingness to finalize what Obama had started….

So where are the federal recognition advocates now?

For the most part, particularly on the issue of federal recognition: crickets.

Yet, delegates of Na‘i Aupuni and those who voted in support of its constitution have continued to work their way into government….

In addition to strategic placement within political and other leadership positions, leaders from Na‘i Aupuni appear to be continuing their efforts to fundraise to hold an election to ratify the constitution written and voted on during the hasty month-long Kanaiolowalu process.

A fundraising letter was leaked in 2016 and as recently as last summer, representatives of the effort participated in a high-level funders conference in Washington, D.C.,representing the “Aloha Lahui Collective Action Fund and Native Hawaiian Roll Commission.”…

we need to at least begin to recognize that our current model is highly problematic. We continue to waste and ruin natural resources at an alarming rate. The wealth gap in Hawaii seems unbridgeable. A solution to the housing crisis continues to elude us.

This was the biggest problem of the race to federal recognition, it denied us the time and opportunity to have the hard conversations. It denied us the space to educate ourselves and each other about our needs and our future….

read … Dead or Dormant?

Gov. David Ige having a rough year at the Legislature

SA: … In his ambitious State of the State address to lawmakers in January, Ige proposed an expansion of preschool programs operating from public school classrooms, but the Legislature appears poised to significantly chop the funding for that initiative below the level that Ige requested. And things appear to be headed downhill from there.

Lawmakers thus far have declined to provide $125 million that Ige requested to help finance the Ala Wai flood control project, and once again they have shelved the Ige administration’s proposal to create an airport authority to manage the state’s airports….

Earlier this year the Legislature rejected Ige proposals for increases in the state’s gasoline and weight taxes and vehicle registration fees to collect an extra $40 million to help pay for road maintenance.

Lawmakers also shelved Ige’s plan to spend an additional $19 million a year to expand the Hawaii Promise scholarship program for the neediest students at the University of Hawaii’s four-year colleges.

In his State of the State speech, Ige also proposed increasing funding for the Legacy Land Conservation Program to purchase and protect “green spaces” and agricultural lands, but the administration bills that were supposed to accomplish that are dead for the year.

Meanwhile, Ige has encountered pushback on some of his Cabinet choices. The governor announced he would reappoint Hawaiian Homes Commission Chairwoman Jobie Masagatani and appoint Rod Becker as state director of finance, but both nominees met resistance in the state Senate. In the end, Ige did not formally nominate either of them….

read … Gov. David Ige having a rough year at the Legislature

Minimum Wage, REIT Tax Head to Conference Committee

CB: … Many of the bills that are moving will likely need further work in the two-week conference committee period that begins Monday. That’s where conferees of both chambers try to iron out their differences on amended legislation.

By this point in the session, many bills have already failed to gain traction, while others still await votes.

Among the bills that have died are ones that would have prohibited motor scooters on the pathway between the Capitol and Iolani Palace, required the release of the identities of inmates who die in jails or prison, and created an independent authority to oversee the state’s airports.

But a bill taxing real estate investment trusts appears ready to go to conference committee. Same goes for legislation requiring the disclosure of the names of suspended or discharged police officers, and a bill creating an oversight commission for the state’s correctional facilities.

Senators unanimously approved House Bill 1191  to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2023 and to $17 an hour for full-time workers employed by the state. It would also provide an income tax credit to help small businesses impacted by the wage hike….

The issue is now headed for conference committee, because the House passed another minimum wage bill with no details as to how much and when it would increase….

HNN: Bill that would’ve inflated the cost of cigarettes dies in the legislature

read … Minimum Wage Increase Among Hundreds Of Bills Moving Forward

HB820: Gut-n-Replace Keeps leasehold condo scheme alive

SA: … Two bills that would permit such projects could be sent to Gov. David Ige if House and Senate leaders resolve differences over the measures.

Recently, however, University of Hawaii economists questioned whether one bill’s goal of having the state develop and sell leasehold condos for $300,000 is achievable.

The economists also suggest that leasehold condos might not sell well and could lead to evictions or the sale of state land at the end of proposed 99-year leases.

Economists Sumner La Croix and James Mak made their assessment in a March 31 University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization report.

The leasehold condo proposal addressed in the UHERO report began as Senate Bill 1 and is the more ambitious of the two bills….

This “gut and replace” bill, House Bill 820, was passed Friday by the Senate Ways and Means Committee. House negotiators would have to agree to the drastic change for the bill to be considered by the full House and Senate, which makes the bill’s chances of becoming law more questionable.

UHERO’s report also expressed doubt as to whether condos can be built for $300,000. The report cited a 2016 Strategic Economics study for the city that pegged development costs, excluding the expense for land and including some reduced or waived government fees, at $409,452 for low-rise housing in Kapolei, $471,603 for midrise housing in Kapalama and $462,414 to $474,446 for high-rise housing in Ala Moana.

Prices for leasehold condos are crucial, UHERO’s report said, because buyers will prefer existing fee-simple condos without resale and profit-sharing restrictions if the fee-simple homes don’t cost significantly more. The median price of existing condos on Oahu so far this year is $411,250. That means half sold for a lower price and half for a higher price….

UHERO:  Is Leasehold Housing Built on Government Land a Solution to Unaffordable Housing in Honolulu?

read … Lawmakers still considering leasehold condos on state land

SB33/SB365: Megabux for Movie Moguls—Heading to Conference Committee

KHON: … There are currently two bills in the legislature, SB 33 SD3 HD2 and SB 365 SD2 HD1, that would change the $35 million cap, though a new proposed amount hasn't been set yet….

The new rule was put in place after concerns that the money being claimed under the credit wasn't being spent here in Hawaii.    

Before the new rules took place, there was no limit on the amount of money that could be claimed under the tax credit program.

Productions on Oahu have a 20 percent tax break and other islands have a 25 percent tax break.

Editor’s Note: This is a fairness issue.  Northern California billionaires get all of Hawaii tax credits. With these bills we can stop shortchanging Southern California billionaires…. 

read … Equal Money for SoCal billionaires

Hawaii lawmakers hope a recent ruling will play in their favor in regulating vacation rentals

HNN: … There is a new push to start taxing thousands of illegal vacation rentals in Hawaii.

A recent court ruling means this could be a breakthrough year….

“We are missing out on perhaps $100 million in tax revenues,” Sen. Wakai said….

In its testimony, Airbnb said HB419 “does not contemplate a fair process for regulating the industry but simply seeks to impose harsh fines.” It also said, “Hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in tourist revenue could be at risk if this bill were adopted as currently proposed.”…

Wakai said he sees it the other way around.  “We’re talking about increasing taxes for education, roads, what have you…(to hire lots of HGEA members and give them computers to play solitaire on all day log for the next 30 years except on Election Day when they vote for me).”

LAT: Airbnb loses major fight over Santa Monica’s rental law

read … Hawaii lawmakers hope a recent ruling will play in their favor in regulating vacation rentals

Hawaii Agribusiness Development Corp faces audits

HTH: … on Tuesday, with the Senate’s passage of House Bill 1561 HD1 SD2, two audits became more or less an inevitability.

The measure tied ADC funding to a performance audit and a financial audit by way of a new budgeting tactic courtesy of House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke that segments budgeting for specific programs.

The maneuver allows for legislators to tie stipulations to program funding. In the past, ADC Executive Director James Nakatani fought any attempt at an audit of the corporation with the backing of Scott Enright, former director of the state Department of Agriculture….

Despite a small staff of four or five regular employees, throughout the previous five years the Legislature appropriated more than $250 million to the corporation to purchase land and conduct market research.

The corporation isn’t required to submit financial statements and was criticized last year by lawmakers for failing to meet a requirement to submit annual reports to the Legislature.

Creagan said ADC has never been upfront about precisely where the money was spent and how decisions were made about its distribution.

State auditor Les Kondo, who’s had the position nearly three years, said Creagan is far from alone in his concerns.

“Of all of the state agencies, the Agribusiness Development Corporation is the one that’s come up the most (in requests for an audit),” said Kondo, adding requests have come from state senators, representatives, those with stakes in the agriculture industry and from random members of the public….

read … Hawaii Agribusiness Development Corp faces audits

More than 30,000 ballots already cast in special election for city council

HNN: …As of Tuesday, the city clerk’s office said 29,785 mail-in ballots were received and 301 people have voted in person.

Honolulu Hale will be open every day until Saturday for voters to submit their ballots. The deadline for ballots to be received: 6 p.m. on April 13….

SA: Ozawa-Waters votes continue to increase

read … More than 30,000 ballots already cast in special election for city council

Trial of former HPD officer delayed as more Miske info tied to Kealoha is sought

HNN: … Lee’s role as a federal witness stems from an arrest that Kealoha allegedly tried to block in 2015.

Lee and another police officer, Jared Spiker, were trying to find and arrest Honolulu businessman and convicted felon, Mike Miske, for an outstanding warrant.

While searching for Miske, they say he called them, a conversation that was recorded by the officers.

That recording was submitted as evidence Monday, but Hawaii News Now aired it back in February.

“Don’t go to my place of business and act a fool," Miske said. After a few back and forth statements Miske can be heard, “Listen, I going go to the top of the food chain. trust me. Jared Spiker.”

Officer Spiker says, Katherine Kealoha -- one of the highest ranking deputy prosecutors at the time -- later called him, ordering the officers to back off of Miske.

An order they ignored….

Miske was arrested and has since pleaded “no contest.”…

read … Trial of former HPD officer delayed as more info tied to Kealoha is sought

Lawmakers grill public safety director

KHON: … Espinda says it could take up to four months to finish the (Maui jail riot) investigation. But the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to make a decision Thursday on whether to recommend to confirm him as public safety director for another four years.

"It's frustrating. At the same time I don't know if we had more direct information it would've changed some other peoples' minds because they're already leaning in one particular way," said Senator Clarence Nishihara, Judiciary Committee Chairman.

Senator Nishihara says he will vote against Espinda but he does not know how the rest of the committee will vote. The ultimate decision comes down to the full senate which will vote next week. …

KITV: State senators want to know what happened at MCCC on March 11th

read … Lawmakers grill public safety director

Maui County attorney resigns from post following abuse allegations

SA: … Maui County Corporation Counsel Patrick Wong resigned today after allegations of abuse of a household member, the Office of Mayor Michael Victorino announced today.

Victorino accepted his resignation “after reviewing the results of the police investigation that led the state Department of the Attorney General to decline prosecution,” a press release said.

“Nevertheless, I believe it’s in the best interest of the Department of Corporation Counsel and the people of Maui County for Mr. Wong to step down at this time,” he said in a written statement….

Victorino also announced his nominee, Moana Lutey, to serve as Maui corporation counsel….

read … Maui County attorney resigns from post following abuse allegations

Maui Mayor Describes Being Attacked by Homosexual Child Molesters

MN: … Local experts on sexual assault are commending Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino’s unexpected public disclosure of being the victim of sexual abuse as a teenager, noting that his story can help other victims start to heal.

Victorino, 66, said he was sexually assaulted at age 13. The mayor revealed details of the incident — something he said he hadn’t told anyone about — during an event Monday at University of Hawaii Maui College to mark April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Hawaii.

“I have never told even my wife of 43 years this story. It’s a true story. It was about a young man who was 13 years old, and four guys jumped him and took his clothes off and played with his privates,” Victorino said in Maui Now video footage of the event. “Thirteen years old. And I never told this story because I’ve always kept it within, inside of that person. I never wanted anyone to hear about it…

read … Mayor lauded for revealing he was sex assault victim

Puna officer faces felony charges in domestic incident

HTH:  … Ulrich was arrested at his home Monday and charged this afternoon with one count each of aggravated domestic abuse by strangulation and second-degree assault — both Class C felonies that carry a potential five-year prison sentence upon conviction — and a single count of misdemeanor domestic abuse.

His bail was set at $5,000.

Ulrich was hired as a police recruit on Feb. 16, 2018, and was assigned to a solo patrol assignment in the Puna district on Jan. 1, 2019. He is still within the initial 18-month new hire probationary period and has been placed on leave without pay pending the completion of an administrative investigation.

read … Puna officer faces felony charges in domestic incident

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