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Thursday, February 4, 2021
February 4, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:46 PM :: 2603 Views

How to fix Hawaii's broken emergency powers law

Hawaii Republican Candidate Indicted by Federal Grand Jury

Mafia News: Kahele Admits he was Picked for State Senate by Malu Motta’s Best Friend

Governor Race: Caldwell Leads Green in Campaign Cash

CB: … Lt. Gov. Josh Green and former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell each raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations, new reports filed by Green and Caldwell show. Both candidates suspended fundraising from March to August due to the pandemic.

Green’s campaign brought in a total of $385,047 during the entire calendar year while Caldwell received $217,394 in donations, according to new campaign finance reports filed Monday.

Caldwell’s campaign leads the hunt for money $518,461 with cash on hand to Green’s $338,894 as of Dec. 30. The former mayor also fundraised more than Green in the last six months of 2020, pulling in $182,110 in contributions.

Green raised $156,397 during the same time period….

read … Green Leads Caldwell In Campaign Donations For Next Governor’s Race

HB413: Should Hawaii Let Candidates For Governor Pick Favorite Crony as LG?

CB: … House Bill 413 would ask voters to amend the state constitution so that the two candidates would instead run as a team.

“The Legislature believes that amending the Hawaii state constitution to require gubernatorial nominees to select their own running mates may create a greater sense of cohesion between the governor and lieutenant governor, with the lieutenant governor potentially serving as a source of guidance and support for the governor,” the bill explains.

It continues: “The legislature further believes that a more cohesive relationship between the two offices may enhance the productivity of the state government.”

read … Should Hawaii Let Candidates For Governor Pick Their LG?

HB645: Hawaii Lawmakers Want Their free Meals to be Secret

CB: … A handful of bills introduced in the Legislature this session would draw those lines at $25, the amount at which lawmakers were generally allowed to accept food gifts prior to the rules going into effect in November.

So far, only a House measure that would exempt those small gifts from a mandated reporting requirement has been scheduled for a hearing.

The House Government Reform Committee debated House Bill 645 Wednesday morning but put off a preliminary vote on the measure until Friday.

The Ethics Commission opposed the bill. Kee Campbell, a commission attorney, said the measure would create more confusion and wouldn’t actually allow lawmakers to accept small gifts since it only touches a part of the law dealing with gift disclosure requirements.

There’s a similar bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 991, but it has not yet been granted a hearing.

The two bills are authored by Rep. Mark Nakashima and Sen. Karl Rhoads, both chairs of their respective chambers’ judiciary committees which would have a hand in moving the measures along through the session.

HB 645 says that meals or beverages accepted at an “informational meeting or presentation or goodwill event” do not need to be reported so long as the meals (can be arranged to appear as if they) come from a non-lobbyist…..

ILind: It’s way too early for legislators and lobbyists to be undermining the new ethics rules

read … Hawaii Lawmakers Want Their ‘Gifts Of Aloha’ Back

Fake Hawaiian Tribe Coming? Schatz advocates for native communities in meeting with President Biden

HNN: … US Sen. Brian Schatz met with President Joe Biden on Wednesday to discuss COVID-19 relief for native communities in Hawaii and across the country.

Joined by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Committee Chairs, Schatz said he discussed plans on how to safely reopen Hawaii’s economy, create new jobs and support business.

Schatz, the new chairman of Indian Affairs, said the meeting with the president was productive.

“One thing is clear — this administration understands the real challenges facing Hawaii and Native communities across the country, and is committed to ending the pandemic and rebuilding our economy,” he said.

Schatz also said that Biden is committed to providing robust funding for native communities….

KITV: Schatz, Biden discuss COVID-19 relief for Native communities in Hawai'i

read … Schatz advocates for native communities in meeting with President Biden

Ballard says HPD still investigating COVID overtime violations

SA: … “We still have the four officers who have had their police powers removed and then we also have not completed the other policy violations yet either, so I really can’t comment on anything until the investigation is completed,” Ballard said.

An internal HPD memo in November revealed “multiple violations” of the department’s overtime policies. The audit found that 59 police officers reported working more than 130 hours in overtime from late September through October, including two officers who said they worked more than 300 hours in overtime.

The memo noted that officers were not allowed to work more than 100 hours in overtime during the five-week period, or 20 hours per week….

read … Ballard says HPD still investigating COVID overtime violations

‘Significant’ Disparity In Use Of Force Questioned By Honolulu Police Commission

CB: … Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders – who make up 25% of Oahu’s population, according to July 2019 U.S. Census data – were the subjects in more than a third of the incidents involving police use of force in 2019. Hawaii residents who are Black or part-Black, who represent only 4.3% of Honolulu’s population, were subject of the use of force in 7.4% of incidents.

That’s according to HPD’s annual use of force report which was published late last year but wasn’t discussed by the Police Commission until this week….

SA: Honolulu Police Commission questions disparities in use of force

(Remember: ‘Racism’ is the ONLY answer you are allowed to think about out loud.)

SA: "Surely racism is a factor that can’t be ignored locally, but neither should it overwhelm a careful analysis of the cases in question."

read … ‘Significant’ Disparity In Use Of Force Questioned By Honolulu Police Commission

Ige: Twice Monthly Furloughs Not Necessary This Year

CB: … In the latest wrinkle in the long-running saga of proposed public worker furloughs, Gov. David Ige said Wednesday it won’t be necessary to impose twice-per-month furloughs on state workers on July 1 after all.

But Ige also said he still needs to achieve some “labor savings” to reduce state government operating costs and offset some of the sharp decline in state tax collections caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview with Civil Beat, Ige declined to say exactly how he will achieve those employee savings, but said his new proposal will be built into a revised state financial plan that will be presented to state lawmakers shortly….

(Translation: Furloughs were never a real plan, just a tactic to push tax hikes through the Legislature.) 

read …  Ige: Twice Monthly Furloughs Not Necessary This Year

With COVID precautions in place, influenza cases in Hawaii are near zero

SA: … Hawaii has so far dodged what health experts feared could be a “twindemic,” with COVID-19 combined with the flu, which has virtually disappeared since last summer.

The last case of influenza in Hawaii detected by Diagnostic Laboratory Services was in July, said Chris Whelen, DLS vice president and technical director of microbiology.

“This is a particularly bizarre influenza season in that it’s nonexistent,” Whelen said at a news conference Tuesday, adding that between 600 and 800 tests a month are yielding negative flu results. “Historically we should be peaking with influenza right about now with post-holiday travel, but we are just not seeing it.”

Health experts say COVID-19 precautions — mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing — have been effective in keeping other respiratory illnesses like influenza from widely circulating. Nationally, flu cases are also at historic lows….

(Translation: Without these precautions, COVID would be 10x or even 100x worse.)

read … With COVID precautions in place, influenza cases in Hawaii are near zero

Save millions by cutting administrative waste in public employees’ health care

SA: … A 2013 Hawaii law requires the state to pre-fund future health benefits, and current payments are about $500 million a year, with over $11 billion in remaining unfunded future liabilities. Bills introduced for the 2021 Legislature would convert EUTF health benefits to a self-insured model with an ASO contract. This would not affect negotiated benefits or EUTF management, and the state would bear full direct responsibility for assuring continued funding of health benefits.

Pre-funding is less important with the self-insured model, since benefits are guaranteed directly by the state, and do not depend on payments to an insurance middle-man. Self-insurance could save the state around $175 million annually in administrative costs, and another $500 million from eliminating pre-funding.

For Medicaid, Hawaii should heed the experience of Connecticut, which terminated its Medicaid managed care program in 2012 in favor of a self-insured managed fee-for-service system called Primary Care Case Management (PCCM). In the four years prior, Connecticut Medicaid costs rose 45%. After the conversion, Medicaid costs stabilized immediately. Six years later physician participation had improved substantially, ER visits were down 25%, hospitalizations were down about 6%, and per-capita Medicaid costs had dropped 14% compared to 2012. Administrative costs dropped from 20-25% under at-risk managed care to 2.8% with PCCM, including the cost of the ASO contract.

Hawaii’s Medicaid program just issued a request for proposal (RFP) to renew contracts with managed care insurance plans effective July 1, 2021, locking in the administrative waste and access problems of our privatized managed care system for another six years. We urge the Ige administration to rescind the managed care RFP, and use the Connecticut template to rapidly design a PCCM system with a non-risk ASO contract. Savings comparable to Connecticut would mean around $175 million per year for the state budget.

Hawaii law designates the Hawaii Health Authority with responsibility for overall health planning, but it has been sidelined for the past nine years. It should be re-activated and empowered to assist the state in designing cost-effective self-insured systems with ASO contracts for both EUTF health benefits and Medicaid. Savings could be in the range of $850 million per year….

Meanwhile: Plan to revamp Hawaii’s unemployment insurance system takes cues from other states

Bonus Idea: Get Rid of Royal State Insurance

read … Save millions by cutting administrative waste in health care

Blangiardi administration to verify HART requests

HPR: … A city measure authorizing Honolulu's budget director to issue and sell $26 million in city bonds to finance the rail project was met with some pushback by the administration.

At a Council budget committee meeting Wednesday, council members aired their concerns about financing the mas transit project going forward. 

The city's budget and fiscal services director-designate Andy Kawano said he asked the rail authority for updated budget information. He told the committee the administration will not move on any financial matter until it reviews the project's budgets.

"We're not going to float any bonds that we cannot validate, in terms of having the right purpose," Kawano said. 

"However, there may be opportunities to do some refinancing, as well, to replace previously issued bonds that were earmarked for HART -- where we can have debt service savings. And we can look at that as well, as we move forward."

Council members expressed their concerns about financing the rail project -- especially with an anticipated decline in tax revenues from the state.

Kawano said the administration is committed to working with the Council and HART in the coming years….

read … Blangiardi administration to verify HART requests

Hawaii tries, for 8th time, to tax REITs

PBN: … House Bill 283 passed first reading last week and was referred to three committees but have yet to schedule hearings on it.

REITs own many of Hawaii’s hotels, office buildings, shopping centers and apartment complexes. Under federal law, they may deduct the dividends paid to shareholders from their state taxes; New Hampshire is the only state to disallow the deduction.

This year, lawmakers are also proposing a new law to require a REIT to notify the state Department of Taxation that it has a presence in the state and to report its assets and annual revenues. House Bill 286 and its companion, Senate Bill 786 each passed first reading in their respective chambers last week.

HB286 was referred last week to three House committees, but hearings have yet to be scheduled. SB786 was referred to two committees that have yet to schedule hearings on the measure.

A similar Senate bill was introduced early in the 2020 session, but debate was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the bill stalled in the House after passing second reading.

In 2019, a similar bill made it all the way to the desk of Gov. David Ige, who vetoed it, saying any potential gains would not be worth unintended consequences to Hawaii’s economy.

Gladys Quinto Marrone, executive director of industry group Nareit Hawaii, noted in a letter to the editor in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the Department of Taxation has cautioned that enacting a tax on the REITs may compel the organizations to seek other tax deductions and credits, “like more corporations — and not pay any corporate income tax,” which would be detrimental to revenue during the current downturn….

read … Hawaii tries, for 8th time, to tax REITs

Hawaiian Airlines may lay off more than 800 employees

PBN: The airline filed a WARN — or Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act — notice with the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations on Tuesday, stating that the layoffs would impact 810 union employees.

According to the WARN notice, most of the cuts would be flight attendants, with 647 flight attendants impacted. Ninety-nine pilots also would be impacted, along with other positions including customer service agents, ramp agents, dispatchers and more.

The majority of employees affected, about 781, are based out of Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. Employees at Hilo Airport, Kahului Airport, Kailua-Kona Airport and Lihue Airport would also be affected. The company anticipates that the layoffs will take place beginning April 1 for flight attendants and pilots, and beginning June 1 for the other workgroups.

The company wrote in the notice that while it has “seen a modest increase in travel to our islands since the rollout of Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program and nationwide administration of Covid-19 vaccines, the pandemic continues to negatively affect Hawaiian Airlines.”

The airline said that while it is receiving funding through the extension of the Payroll Support Program, the assistance will expire on March 31….

PBN: Hawaiian Airlines working on adjustments to flight schedules

read … Hawaiian Airlines may lay off more than 800 employees

Court Rejects Hu Honua but they’ll be back

ILind: … in a brief 2-page decision, the court cited an earlier case that found the relief being sought, a writ of mandamus, “is an extraordinary remedy that will not issue unless the petitioner demonstrates a clear and indisputable right to relief and a lack of alternative means to redress adequately the alleged wrong or obtain the requested action; it is not intended to supersede the legal discretionary authority of the trial courts, cure a mere legal error, or serve as a legal remedy in lieu of normal appellate procedures.”

The court found those conditions were not met, and ruled Hu Honua arguments are more appropriate for the direct appeal of the PUC’s actions it filed on the same day in September 2020 as its request for an extraordinary writ.

That appeal is pending. On January 19, 2021, Hu Honua filed a motion asking the court to expedite it’s appeal, using language that appears targeted more for public relations than legal effect….

read … Two recent Hawaii Supreme Court rulings

Supreme Court Finally Rejects E-Signature Kaneshiro Impeachment

ILind: … On Monday, February 1, the court finally rejected the attempt to impeach former city prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro utilizing online petitions signed electronically, rather than traditional petitions containing handwritten signatures. The court said the law allows government agencies, including the city clerk, may decide whether or not to accept electronic signatures as valid….

For what seemed like a relatively simple question, there court had to trace the tangled procedural and legal history of the impeachment case, which it did in Monday’s 62-page decision….

(If Yoshimura were really serious about Impeaching Kaneshiro, he could have gathered the paper signatures in a few days.)

read … Two recent Hawaii Supreme Court rulings

Child Molester Stupidly Leaves the Safety of Hawaii, Guess What Happens Next

MML: … 70-year-old Eric Richard Eleson was denied parole at a hearing held via videoconference on January 29th….

In 2019 Eleson became eligible for Early Elder Parole as he was over the age of 60 and had served 25 years of his sentence. The D.A. office says that at the parole hearing Eleson took no responsibility for his actions and blamed others for his convictions. Those included Second-Degree Murder in San Mateo County in 1970 where he was paroled after only serving five years. In 1984, Eleson was convicted of First-Degree Sexual Abuse of a Child and Bail Jumping in Hawaii. A decade later, in 1994, Eleson faced that same crime this time with a two-year-old child in Oregon. He never faced those charges because he fled to Tuolumne County, according to the D.A.’s office.

It only took the commissioners from the Board of Parole Hearings about ten minutes to find Eleson not suitable for parole based on his continued risk to society. While he was denied a parole hearing for five years, Eleson will be eligible to petition to advance his case after three years, according to the D.A.’s office….

read … Murderer, Child Molester, And Three-Striker Denied Parole

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