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Wednesday, February 3, 2021
February 3, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:06 PM :: 5080 Views

VIDEO: Saiki Calls for UH to Give up Mauna Kea

UH: 'Astronomy at Significant Risk' from Saiki's Half-baked Plan

So-Called 'Kaka'ako Land Co' Loses in Lawsuit

HSTA Refusal to Work puts 38% of Seniors on Track to Flunk out

CB: … Nearly 18% of Hawaii’s high schoolers — and 38% of high school seniors alone — are not on track to graduate based on credits earned or needed in their stage of schooling, according to new official data, a troubling sign many students have fallen behind during the pandemic.

Certain districts in Hawaii are seeing a precipitously high percent of high school seniors not on track to graduate, based on data captured through the end of the second quarter ending Dec. 18 by the Hawaii Department of Education that was released just a few days ago.

For instance, in the Baldwin-Kekaulike-Maui district, 66% of high school seniors, or 598 students, have not accrued the necessary credits to graduate, while in Hana-Lahainaluna-Lanai-Molokai, 68% of seniors, or 237 students, are falling short of credits.

The high school graduation metric, based on data collected by the DOE’s Office of Strategy, Innovation and Performance, is part of a broader data dashboard created by DOE this year to monitor things like grades, attendance, device connectivity and the supply of protective gear in schools during the pandemic.

The DOE did not respond to a request for comment….

IM: HSTA Refusal to Work Destabilizes Electric Grid

read … First Semester DOE Data Shows Graduation Rate On Downward Slope

SB202: Senate Committee Approves Tax Hike

CB: … Chang is the chairman of the Senate Housing Committee, and was able to use his position to advance another bill he introduced to eliminate the state income tax deduction for interest paid on mortgages for second homes.

Chang said in an interview he wants to use Senate Bill 202 in this time of economic crisis to remove a tax subsidy for second homeowners, thereby increasing state tax collections and discouraging people from holding on to vacant investment properties.

“We’re trying to remove the incentive that state taxpayers are giving to people who are acquiring homes not for their own occupancy,” Chang said.

Hiraki with the Hawaii Association of Realtors opposed that bill as well, saying in written testimony the mortgage interest deduction for second homes “is an important opportunity for individuals to use to invest for retirement or to support their families with Hawaii’s high cost of living and housing.”

In today’s real estate environment, more homeowners are purchasing a second home for their elderly parents or their adult children who cannot otherwise afford to pay for a home,” Hiraki wrote.

The measure was unanimously approved by Chang’s Housing Committee, and now goes to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for further consideration.

A pivotal state Senate committee listened to less than two minutes of testimony Tuesday before scrapping a proposal for a statewide rent control program.

Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee Chairwoman Rosalyn Baker deferred Senate Bill 52 indefinitely after considering objections to the measure from the Hawaii Association of Realtors, and from others.

The measure would have prohibited landlords from raising rents more than 10% a year. The measure would have also banned landlords from increasing the rent on the same tenant more than two times in a single year….

SB202: Text, Status

SB52: Text, Status

read … Tax Hike Coming

Raised unemployment tax could kill businesses

TGI: … “At ProService, we’re advocating that the bill be amended and the schedule be held at Schedule C for at least two years,” ProService CEO Ben Godsey said in a letter sent to clients last month.

“Small businesses cannot handle a steep SUTA (state unemployment taxes) increase. A local business with five employees could pay an extra $7,000 in SUTA taxes,” he said in his letter.

”Second, the government cannot fairly hold employers solely responsible for replenishing the trust fund. Third, our lawmakers need to look for ways to replenish the trust fund outside of tax hikes on employers.”

Megan Fox, executive director of Malama Kaua‘i, which focuses on localized economic deployment, echoed Godsey’s statement.

“To force small, local employers to immediately make up for the state’s unemployment losses is unconscionable in today’s business climate,” Fox said.

“These businesses did not create the problem, and shouldn’t be on the line as the solution to it. If they increase payroll costs like this, it’s going to have an even further negative impact on job growth and stabilization when we need it the most.” ….

read … Raised unemployment tax could kill businesses

Saiki, Belatti Try new Angle of Attack Against State Auditor

CB: … Saiki endorsed a bill authored by House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti, which would group together the state’s watchdog agencies: the Office of the Auditor, Office of the Ombudsman, Office of Information Practices, Hawaii State Ethics Commission, and Campaign Spending Commission.

The new Office of Public Accountability (probably headed by Hanabusa—editor) would reduce costs and duplicative efforts, Saiki said. The auditors would still be appointed to an eight-year term and the ombudsman for six years, the bill says. And their salaries couldn’t be cut while they were in office.

Robin Matsunaga, the Hawaii State Ombudsman, said much would depend on the nature of the “oversight and administrative responsibility” that the new office would assume over other agencies.

“On its face, it looks like the bill is trying to create an umbrella for all of the watchdog groups. But I don’t understand functionally how that would work,” said Matsunaga, who is in charge of investigating complaints made by the public against government officials and agencies.

Specifically, he said, it could be problematic if the director of the new agency has the power to go through confidential information gathered by the watchdog agencies. That might undermine the integrity of what the watchdogs do, he said….

Reality: Saiki, Hanabusa Launch Attack on State Auditor to Save OHA’s Dirty Secrets

read … House Leader Lays Out Proposals For Accountability, Land And Tourism

Years-long Kealoha mailbox case to come to an end as last 2 defendants are sentenced

HNN: … The years-long case that took down the Kealohas is finally ending, with the last two defendants in the case to be sentenced Wednesday in federal court.

Jesse Ebersole, a former Big Island firefighter, and retired Honolulu police officer Niall Silva are expected to get anywhere from probation to months of confinement.

Ebersole pleaded guilty in 2018 to a charge of conspiracy to obstruct, admitting that he lied to the grand jury about his affair with Katherine Kealoha, the former high-ranking deputy city prosecutor who is now serving time. That affair was funded using stolen money.

He is no longer with the fire department and later cooperated with prosecutors.

Niall Silva pleaded guilty in 2016 to conspiracy.

The retired police officer’s crime stems from the 2014 mailbox trial.

During Puana’s trial, Silva lied on the stand about his role in the investigation.

That case ended in a mistrial. And not long after that, Silva switched sides.

He was the first to come forward and prosecutors described him as instrumental in getting the federal case against the Kealohas to the next level….  

KHON: Retired HPD officer sentenced to 9 months prison, firefighter sentenced to probation for roles in Kealoha case

CB: Judge Sends Former Cop Who Flipped On The Kealohas To Prison

SA: Their sentencings close a huge chapter in the sordid Kealoha scandal. But with federal investigators still probing, brace for another chapter.

(Really Obvious Question: Will the feds now fade away?  Or will their investigations continue???)

read … Years-long Kealoha mailbox case to come to an end as last 2 defendants are sentenced[

UH Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Project Cost Jumps 20% in a Week

HNN: … University of Hawaii says that an estimated $6 million is required to make upgrades to the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex in order to host Rainbow Warrior football games …

SA: (and even more costs...) University of Hawaii expects to lose $400K annually playing football in Manoa

Big Q: Do you support the $6 million upgrade plan to enable University of Hawaii football games at the Manoa campus?

Jan 29, 2021: What Emergency? Temporary University of Hawaii stadium on campus will cost $5M

SA: University of Hawaii drafts plan to host football games in Manoa

read … UH details estimated cost to renovate Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex to Host ‘Bows football

Hawaii businesses, still struggling with no tourism rebound, expect long road to recovery

HNN: … A new Chamber of Commerce survey of more than 300 Hawaii businesses found that more than two-thirds continue to see severe revenue downturns.

The lack of a tourism rebound was found to be the biggest factor in businesses continuing to struggle.

The survey, conducted by Omnitrak, Central Pacific Bank Foundation and the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce Foundation, also found that about 45% of local businesses have laid off employees.

Businesses polled who reduced their workforce said they’d laid off a median of 33% of their employees. The rate was higher on the Neighbor Islands.

The survey also showed that the number of businesses having to lay off workers would have reached 60% if it wasn’t for funding from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

Meanwhile, businesses surveyed believe the road to recovery will take well over a year….  

HNN: Hawaii businesses continue to suffer amid pandemic and fear recovery is a long way off

PBN: Survey finds Hawaii businesses continue to face revenue losses, workforce reductions due to Covid-19

SA: Survey finds Hawaii businesses reeling from lost revenue, cutting jobs, and expecting a long road to recovery

CoC: "The Early Impacts of Covid-19 on U.S. Mall Businesses" webinar Feb 4

read … Hawaii businesses, still struggling with no tourism rebound, expect long road to recovery

Mother Hen State: Feeding Feral Chickens Could Result In $500 Penalty

CB: … House Bill 524, which has a hearing Thursday before the House Committee on Health, Human Services and  Homelessness (and can be monitored via videoconferencing), calls for a $500 civil fine for the feeding or attempted feeding of any feral chicken.

If approved, the Hawaii Department of Health would be required to enforce the prohibition “regardless of whether the department determines there is a nuisance that is dangerous or injurious to health,” the bill explains.

HB 524 would also authorize county police departments to issue citations.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Scott Matayoshi, whose district includes portions of Kaneohe and Kailua.

Feral, by the way, is defined in the legislation as chickens “not in captivity” nor owned by any person or group….

(Idea: Claim ownership of every chicken in Kailua.  Then charge them for parking.)

read … $500?? That’s Not Chicken Scratch

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