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Friday, July 10, 2020
July 10, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:57 PM :: 3645 Views

COVID Economy: State Much More Susceptible than Counties

Groups Challenge Hawaii’s prohibition on the open carry of firearms

DoE Announces COVID Class Schedules for Fall

City Council defers borrowing for rail

Frustrated Hawaii businesses feel further delay in reopening could beget ‘economic catastrophe’

SA: …  “Without tourism we can’t pay bills,” said Nicole Niau, who worked as a manager at Lucky Strike up until her May 1 layoff following the closure of the entertainment venue at Ala Moana Center. “It’s not just me who has financial hardship, it’s everybody. All mom-and-pop stores here in Hawaii are closing down because they’re having a hard time paying bills.

“We depend on tourism so much that without tourists here it’s kind of a shock. The locals are here but we all stay home. We don’t go out, so there’s not enough money being generated to survive.”

To help revive the state’s largest economic segment, Gov. David Ige announced that the 14-day mandatory self- quarantine for arriving passengers would be lifted Aug. 1 for those who test negative for COVID-19 before arriving. But as cases surge here and on the mainland, state officials are now leaning toward pushing back that date.

Meanwhile, an extra $600 in weekly unemployment payments from the federal government to Hawaii’s 250,000 currently jobless residents will end July 31.

“It’s literally going to be an economic catastrophe from the bottom up. All of that’s coming to an end. It’s very frightening,” said Thomas Ray, co-owner of Square Barrels, a popular restaurant bar in downtown’s Bishop Square. “Once this $600 extra goes away for the unemployment insurance … we are going to see significant losses as the entire economy will just run out of money. When that goes away, that’s going to seriously limit their secondary money to go out and eat because they’re not going to get their jobs back, essentially, and that’s going to be devastating for businesses.”…

Hawaiian Airlines is scheduled to resume 12 of 13 flights between North America and Hawaii on Aug. 1, and many other businesses also are preparing to restart operations.

“We are concerned that each day that goes by that we delay the opening of tourism, that will equate to more businesses shutting down,” said Sherry Menor- McNamara, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, adding that 40% of businesses surveyed indicated they would not reopen until tourism does….

Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, said a delay beyond Aug. 1 is “going to impose a tremendous hardship” on the ability of hotels to bring people back to work….

KITV: Mayor Caldwell says the state has yet to decide the best way to move forward with reopening plans.

TMR: Hawaii’s Montage Kapalua Bay to Reopen August 1

read … Frustrated Hawaii businesses feel further delay in reopening could beget ‘economic catastrophe’

Bill would change election laws to make Rep. Takayama eligible to run for Sen. Harimoto’s seat

SA: … Twelve days after the death of state Sen. Breene Harimoto, the House Judiciary Committee proposed a change in state election law that would make committee member Rep. Gregg Taka­yama eligible to run to serve out the last two years of Harimoto’s term.

Lawmakers say Takayama (D, Pearl City-Waimalu- Pacific Palisades) has privately expressed interest in moving up to the Senate, but under current law is prohibited from seeking Harimoto’s Senate seat because he already filed to run for reelection to the House seat he now holds.

But late last month House Judiciary Committee Chairman Chris Lee inserted language into Senate Bill 2139 to allow candidates to pull out of a race after the normal deadline to withdraw and then run to fill an unexpected midterm vacancy such as the one for Hari­moto’s seat….

State Rep. Sam Satoru Kong (D, Halawa-Aiea- Newtown) also lives in Harimoto’s Senate district and also filed for reelection, but Kong said in an interview he is not interested in moving to the Senate….

Harimoto (D, Pearl Harbor-Pearl City-Aiea) died June 18 after a long illness. If SB 2139 is approved, it would take effect retroactively on June 17, the day before Harimoto died.

The House maneuvering on the bill was roundly criticized by Common Cause Hawaii Executive Director Sandy Ma, who said the public had no advance notice the new language would be inserted into the bill June 30.

“If there were a proposed (draft made public in advance), there could have been testimony, people could have gotten notice, there could have been transparency and accountability about this change,” she said.

Instead, lawmakers are making the change at the last minute in a unique session in which the state Capitol is closed to the public because of the new coronavirus, and ordinary citizens are therefore not allowed in the building to lobby or testify in person on bills….

The candidates in the special election will be selected by the parties, which each naming one person to run. That means that even if SB 2139 passes, Takayama would still need to convince party officials to nominate him to run.

But Takayama might have a significant advantage on that score because he is politically well connected. He campaigned hard for Ige’s reelection in 2018, and Takayama is married to Ige’s Chief of Staff Linda Chu Takayama.

Apart from voting for SB 2139 as a member of the Judiciary Committee, Takayama said his only involvement in the bill came when Oahu County Democratic Party Committee Chairwoman Lorna Strand called Takayama several weeks ago to express concern that people who had already filed for office were not eligible under state law to run in the special election….

Lee said, “As a voter (insider), you want to be able to (s)elect the best person possible and not be arbitrarily restricted simply because the (insider candidate’s) timing was off.” He said having the bill before his committee now was “a perfect opportunity” to fix the law. (election).

Office of Elections Testimony: ”We would note that in order for this bill to apply to this election cycle, a retroactive effective date would need to be included.”

(If Takayama drops out of House race the only candidate will be the Republican

SB2139: Text, Status

read … Bill would make Rep. Takayama eligible to run for Sen. Harimoto’s seat

Hidden Agenda?  Outside Influence? SB2940 paving way for new Aloha Stadium dies in Hawaii Legislature

SA: … A bill crucial to the progress of the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District suffered an 11th-hour death at the state Legislature, which is sure to delay the project for at least a year and drive up already-escalating costs, lawmakers said today.

State Sen. Glenn Wakai (D, Pearl Harbor-Kalihi) termed it, “a fumble on the one yard line” and the State Comptroller called it a “monumental error.”

Senate Bill 2940 was to have transferred the authority of the project to the Aloha Stadium Authority from the Hawaii Community Development Authority….

Sen. Kai Kahele (D, Hilo) objected because a snag in the wording of the bill, which was intended to allow the state to grant 99-year leases on the 98-acre Halawa footprint that the current stadium sits in, inadvertently would have also opened up other areas under HCDA jurisdiction to expanded leases.

In a letter to key lawmakers, Curt Otaguro, state Comptroller and head of the Department of Accounting and General Services said, “I apologize for this monumental error and for the confusion and inconvenience caused to the Senate membership at this late stage. This error was under the unique and unexpected challenges to our bill review and drafting caused by the COVID-1 9 pandemic and the effect on this legislative session, even as we were attempting to ensure we were as thorough as possible, and in no means was it inserted because of other hidden agendas or outside influences.”

State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D Mililani Mauka-Waipo Acres) said the bill has died because there was no agreement in time for at least a 24-layover preceding Friday’s legislative session adjournment.

It would take action by Gov. David Ige to call a special session, but lawmakers said that was unlikely…. 

SA: Delaying Aloha Stadium project could add $20M to its cost

read ... Senate bill paving way for new Aloha Stadium dies in Hawaii Legislature

‘Patently Absurd’ Amemiya Contributes Money to Hanabusa, Hannemann

CB: … While Amemiya says he represents a new chapter for the city, he’s as close to local politics as one can be without actually having run for office before.

He’s the son of former Hawaii Attorney General Ronald Amemiya and the cousin of Roy Amemiya, Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s managing director. And for years, Keith Amemiya has been a generous donor to the political campaigns of Hawaii’s power players.

Since 2007, he has donated $63,400 to local and state political campaigns, according to state data. Over the years, Amemiya has given the most – $12,500 – to Caldwell, followed by $12,000 to Neil Abercrombie and $7,050 to his current opponent in the mayor’s race, Mufi Hannemann. …

He has also supported influential legislative leaders, including House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke and Senate Ways and Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz. He hedged his bets in the 2018 gubernatorial election, donating $1,000 each to David Ige and Colleen Hanabusa, who is also running against him for mayor. …

Amemiya has donated thousands more toward federal races. Until last year, he was the campaign treasurer for U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. …

Elected officials have also chosen Amemiya to serve on citizen boards. Hannemann appointed him to the Honolulu Police Commission in 2006, and Abercrombie appointed him to the Hawaii Board of Education in 2011. Ige appointed him to the Aloha Stadium Authority board.

In 2008, Amemiya resigned as vice chairman of the Honolulu Police Commission after the Honolulu Ethics Commission launched a conflict of interest investigation. Amemiya had accepted a $25,000 donation from the police union for an HHSAA fundraiser….

Amemiya is also well-connected in the private sector.

The contributions to his campaign feature thousands of dollars from CEOs and other prominent business leaders. And for years, he’s worked closely with wealthy businessmen Colbert Matsumoto and Duane Kurisu….

Amemiya considers Bert T. Kobayashi Jr.,a prominent local attorney, to be his hanai father…

“They’re about as establishment as you can get,” said Colin Moore, director of the University of Hawaii Public Policy Center. “I think he’s made efforts to present himself as the outsider, which is patently absurd.”….

Best Comment: “I like the strategy of Mufi entering the race. Mufi playing the bad guy and Keith playing the humble, good guy...but both playing by the same game plan.”

read … Keith Amemiya: Political Outsider Or Establishment Insider?

Gun control bills hang in the balance as lawmakers wrap up the legislative session

SA: … That tragedy prompted lawmakers to introduce HB 2709, which would require that when a gun owner dies, a representative of the gun owner’s estate must contact police to ensure the firearms are sold or transferred to a legally qualified owner or disposed of properly.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Karl Rhoads has said he believes that if HB 2709 had been law, Hanel might not have had access to a firearm and that Enriquez and Kalama might not have been killed.

However, the House voted Wednesday to disagree with amendments the Senate made to the bill late last month. It is possible House leaders could reconsider today and accept the latest draft of the bill, but House Public Safety Committee Chairman Gregg Takayama acknowledged that Wednesday’s action is “not a good sign.”

House Speaker Scott Saiki was unavailable Thursday to comment on what the problem with the bill might be.

Another gun control measure that has an uncertain future is House Bill 2744, which would make it a felony to buy, manufacture or import firearm parts for the purpose of assembling guns with no serial numbers.

The House also voted to disagree with the Senate amendments to that bill, but House Judiciary Committee Chairman Chris Lee said lawmakers are working behind the scenes to try to “get things rolling” for the measure.…

Meanwhile, a proposed ban on large-capacity rifle magazines that hold more than 10 bullets appears poised for final passage today, although staff for state Attorney General Clare Connors has suggested the ban may be unenforceable as written. The House signaled Wednesday that leadership plans to accept the latest draft of that bill.

However, a measure to restrict the sale of ammunition to people who can prove they own a registered firearm failed in the Senate earlier this year.

The House also announced Wednesday it would not agree to Senate amendments to HB 2457 to ban the advertising or sale of flavored tobacco products in Hawaii, including vaping products, which raises doubts about the future of that measure….

read … Gun control bills hang in the balance as lawmakers wrap up the legislative session

Coronavirus clobbers Marshall Island communities in U.S.: Infections have 'skyrocketed'

AP: … In eastern Washington's Spokane County, Marshallese make up less than 1% of the population — but 22% of the COVID-19 cases. As of Wednesday, more than 394 of the 3,000 Marshall Island citizens in the county had tested positive, and three had died.

In northwest Arkansas, another region where people from the Marshall Islands have settled, they make up 3% of the population — and roughly half the deaths. Across Arkansas, where Pacific Islanders make up less than 1% of the population, they account for 7% of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

From Hawaii to Oregon to Orange County, Calif., the coronavirus is clobbering Marshallese and Pacific Islands communities. In Washington since early May, Pacific Islanders including Hawaiians were 17 times more likely than white people to contract COVID-19, a per capita propensity higher than Latinos, a study shows.

Marshallese health experts and advocates say these people are uniquely vulnerable to the virus: Immigrants from the Marshall Islands are often employed in front-line jobs in places such as meat processing plants, canneries, hotels and restaurants; they are predisposed to diabetes and high-blood pressure; they embrace traditions that encourage closeness and gatherings; and many don't have access to preventative and routine medical care.….

read … Coronavirus clobbers Marshall Island communities in U.S.: Infections have 'skyrocketed'

"We need more testing immediately" Hawaii doc cautions against testing complacency

KITV: .. Dr. Miscovich also said having tests returned in 24 hours will be a key component to dampening any surge.

"The state is actually doing a really good job now putting contact tracing together but what good is contact tracing if you get test results 10 days later and you have to figure out another 100 people perhaps infected," he explained.

Dr. Miscovich recommends the state explores high-volume testing, also known as high throughput testing. He told KITV4 that high throughput tests and analyzers are available right now and would bring the state's testing capacity to at least 8,000 if they invested just under $10 million.

"You don’t sit and wait until you have deaths and surges to say 'oh no we need labs we need them now' and the machines are potentially still available lets get them while we still can," Dr. Miscovich explained. …

HNN: Health Department: Hawaii labs are able to meet current demand for COVID-19 testing

KHON: Lt. Gov. Green Says DOH is “Throwing Arms Up About Tracing”

read … "We need more testing immediately" Hawaii doc cautions against testing complacency

BoE Delays Vote on COVID Agreement

KITV: … According to Hawaii State teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee, up to 40 percent of all teachers are in a high risk category and 37 percent are thinking of leaving or retiring because of the coronavirus.

The HSTA and the Department of Education had reached a  Memorandum of Understanding on June 27th, which included the wearing of masks and the six foot distancing.

However, tonight the board voted to delay the approval of the MOU until later this month. …

read … Teachers testify against COVID19 guidelines

Plans For Increasing COVID-19 Testing At Care Homes On Hold

CB: … A shortage of testing supplies at private labs is forcing the state department of health to shift gears and be more strategic in its testing plan, health officials said….Across the U.S., more than 40% of all COVID-19 related deaths have occurred in nursing homes, and elderly people are considered among the most vulnerable to suffering complications from the disease….Clusters of the disease have been found in a large nursing facility on Oahu and other smaller care homes in Wahiawa and Kaneohe….

SA: Hawaii lawmakers debate coronavirus testing for nursing homes

read … Plans For Increasing COVID-19 Testing At Care Homes On Hold

Young Bros. files New Request for Rate Increase—47% This Time!

BIN: … Young Brothers, LLC July 7, 2020, made an emergency request of the Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Tuesday asking for a temporary rate increase for the remainder of 2020….

“If approved, this temporary rate increase will provide critical revenue we need to maintain current levels of service and continue operations, and we will only be able to recover part of the $30 million we are projecting to lose this year,” said Jay Ana, President of Young Brothers. “I want to be clear that this proposed rate increase would only allow the company to break even in 2020 if the rates were in place for a full year — we are not seeking an allowed rate of return or any sort of profit as part of this request.”

YB attributed expected losses to “the decline in the intrastate cargo volumes” and “higher operating expenses due primarily to the increase in labor and labor-related costs.”

The company requested $25 million in CARES Act funds from the state legislature to sustain operations through 2020. However, such assistance has not been provided. While the state Senate is considering the proposal, it does not provide the immediate infusion of emergency funding needed to support operations and current service levels….

You may download a copy of Young Brothers’ filing here….

read … Young Bros. Requests Rate Increase

Gov. Ige appoints Bennette Misalucha to the late Breene Harimoto’s Hawaii Senate seat

SA: … “Bennette is a long-time member of our community, and she understands the current issues and challenges we face,” said Ige in the statement. “I know she will ably represent the residents in this district until the new senator is elected in November.”….Misalucha will take office once the state Senate qualifies her and administers the oath of office….

read … Gov. Ige appoints Bennette Misalucha to the late Breene Harimoto’s Hawaii Senate seat

Utilities commission rejects Hu Honua’s Overpriced deal to Jack up Electric Rates

HNN: … The state Public Utilities Commission rejected a proposal by Hu Honua Bioenergy on Thursday to provide electricity to Hawaiian Electric Co. in a move the company says will lead to the loss of more than 200 jobs.

The PUC denied the company’s request for a waiver from the competitive bidding process for renewable energy, forcing it compete with lower cost wind and solar projects.

“I don’t think the project will be back. It’s just way too costly,” said Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land, a consumer group that opposed the deal. “The Hu Honua plant would have been a terrible deal for ratepayers.”

Curtis said the plant ― which burns wood chips to generate electricity ― produces power at twice the cost of solar energy.

Hu Honua will likely appeal. The company said the ruling will force it to lay off 64 staffers and contractors, and that another 145 trucking, forestry and support jobs will likely also be lost.

In a statement, the company said: “The PUC’s action essentially reverses its two prior approvals of the (power purchase agreement) and waivers that allowed the project to proceed and which Hu Honua relied on in spending hundreds of millions of dollars.”…

read … Utilities commission rejects Hu Honua’s deal to provide energy for HECO

Yes, window AC units require building permits in Hawaii County

WHT: … Hawaii County is the only municipality in the state requiring people to get a building permit to put in a window air conditioner, a circumstance many say is not cool.

“Really??? county council candidates?” state Rep. Joy San Buenaventura, D-Puna, posted on Facebook when sharing an announcement by Mayor Harry Kim late Tuesday. “Can we change the county code on this or do electricians really need the work?” ….

“Generally, an air conditioning system installed without a permit, or “as-built” would be treated as though it were a new installation and must meet current codes and now may not comply with the new Energy Code,” the press release said….

HTH: Lee Loy amendment fixes requirement of building permit for window AC units

read … Yes, window AC units require building permits in Hawaii County

Kauai Anti-Styrofoam bill amended to delay implementation

TGI: … A bill first introduced in February that would restrict the use and sale of styrofoam foodservice containers is being amended and pushed off due to economic uncertainty sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

Kaua‘i County Councilmember Luke Evslin suggested four major changes to Bill No. 2775 vast enough to send the bill back to the public hearing stage later this summer.

If passed without these amendments, the bill would have taken effect on the first of 2021. Evslin suggested a delay to 2022, and an additional point that the county engineer or other authority offers an update to the public on implementation. He also said he hopes the next council reevaluates the economy and possibly delay the ordinance even further.

read … Anti-Styrofoam bill amended

Hawaii Prison Oversight Commission: ‘Maybe We’ve Been Forgotten’

CB: … Commissioners say the state is stalling the hiring process of a director, while pushing forward to pursue a public-private partnership for a new Oahu jail complex ….

read … Hawaii Prison Oversight Commission: ‘Maybe We’ve Been Forgotten’

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