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Wednesday, February 10, 2021
February 10, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:31 PM :: 4127 Views

FY2021: State Tax Receipts Down 16.4%

Trump on Trial: Video Montage of Attack on U.S. Capitol

Lawsuit: Hee Crime Family Under the Table Deal with Time Warner

Maui County Charter Commission Named

Hawaii Republican Legislative Update

Doom: Biden administration asks US Attorney for Hawaii Kenji Price to resign

HNN: … The Biden administration has asked Kenji Price, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii, to resign.

The Hawaii U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed his resignation on Tuesday.

He is expected to leave by the end of the month, sources told Hawaii News Now….

Biden is expected to make an announcement on his nominations of new U.S. attorneys….

(Reality: Biden will install a Democrat patsy recommended by Schatz and Hirono.  Federal corruption investigations will quietly fade away.)  

Nov 29, 2020: Kealoha sentencing Monday: Feds Will be Leaving Soon--Crooks, Cronies can Get Back to Business

Dec 2, 2020: Trump's Leaving But Can We Keep His Hawaii US Attorney?

read …  Biden administration asks US Attorney for Hawaii Kenji Price to resign

One-In-Five Hawaii Workers Are Unemployed, Underemployed, Or Have Quit Looking

HPR: … At 9.3%, Hawaii’s official unemployment rate remains the highest in the country, slightly ahead of tourism-heavy Nevada.

That represents a substantial decline from April of 2020, when one-quarter of Hawaii workers were jobless.

However, pushing that number below its current level will be difficult, according to University of Hawaii economist Carl Bonham, because many local businesses are still struggling to get by.

“There is really no reason to add additional employees back in because the ones who are back at work, many are working part time, they’re not fully employed and the business aren’t making enough money to justify bringing additional workers back on,” Bonham said at recent hearing. 

He noted that situation likely would not change significantly until visitor spending increased.

Bonham also cautioned that declines in the official unemployment rate, known as U3, may be deceiving. That statistical measure does not count workers who have stopped looking for new jobs or can only find part time work.

Bonham says that 19.4% of Hawaii workers now fall into that category, known as the U6 unemployment rate. That represents higher level than Hawaii experienced at any point during the Great Recession period.

Lawmakers in the State House will consider a measure on Tuesday aimed at boosting the local visitor industry.

House Bill 1286 would set a statewide standard for Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program. Currently, counties can add additional restrictions at the local level….

AP: Hawaii economy shows signs of being stalled amid pandemic

read … One-In-Five Hawaii Workers Are Unemployed, Underemployed, Or Have Quit Looking

Ige Clams Public Employees Will get no Pay Raises

CB: … Gov. David Ige’s latest financial plan reflects a somewhat cheerier economic outlook for state government going forward, but Ige is still pressuring the state’s public workers for concessions that would save the state about $285 million over the next two years.

Ige declined to say exactly what he has proposed during the ongoing negotiations with the public worker unions, but the Hawaii State Teachers Association notified its members this week the administration has proposed reductions in pay and benefits to save the state money.

Given the state’s current financial condition, “we can’t maintain employment of all employees at the current salary levels without seeing some significant labor savings,” Ige told reporters on Tuesday….

He bluntly ruled out any pay raises for public workers in the near future.

“As you know, we are not having the revenues that we can support pay raises at this point in time, and our proposals reflect the current financial status of the state budget,” he said….

(IQ Test: Do you believe him?)

read … Saying ‘Labor Savings’ Are Still Needed, Ige Proposes Cuts To Pay, Benefits

Ige reduces budget cut for public schools

AP:  … Gov. David Ige said Tuesday that coronavirus relief aid from the U.S. government and better-than-expected tax revenues have prompted him to reduce the size of budget cuts he has proposed for public schools.

Instead of a 10% cut to the state Department of Education budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, Ige instead said he would propose a 2.5% reduction….

Related: FY2021: State Tax Receipts Down 16.4%

read … Ige reduces budget cut for public schools

SB590: Portable Retirement Plan for Some Public Employees

SA: … In an effort to reduce rising labor costs and accommodate coaches who do not stick around long enough to become vested in the state’s retirement system, the University of Hawaii athletic department is looking into the possibility of offering a “portable” retirement option.

The possibility, which is currently before the Legislature in the form of Senate Bill 590, was among several recommendations made by a 14-member “blue ribbon” committee charged with helping the athletic department come up with ways to reduce more than a decade of recurring deficits.

In convening the committee in September, UH President David Lassner said, “UH Manoa alone cannot support the program as-is and must take action to bring revenues and expenses into alignment.” …

Coaches salaries and benefits, which add up to approximately $8.5 million per year, are one of the department’s biggest expenses and increased by $1 million alone between fiscal 2018 and ’19.

“The concept is that we are paying a 63% fringe benefit rate and a lot of that is on the retirement end, so if we could make portable retirement plans maybe we could reduce that rate by a significant percentage,” David Matlin, UH athletic director, told the school’s Board of Regents. “When we looked at some statistics a very small percentage of coaches actually get vested. So this could be a win-win. This could save us money and also give them a portable program that they could take with them somewhere else.”

Due to the transient nature of the profession, over the last 25 years, Matlin said just 18% of coaches in football and men’s basketball at UH became vested in the state’s retirement plan.

Matlin said the concept was, “a very creative idea” and forwarded by the committee that included members from the UH Professional Assembly and the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira, who proposed the idea, said, “A law regarding optional retirements has been on the books for a number of years, and the law currently provides that faculty could implement an optional plan, but it has never been utilized. I only suggested to the committee that the university should study the feasibility of whether or not an option plan would be cost effective for them while, at the same time, at the employee/coach’s option it could be beneficial to the coach.”

Perreira said, “The university needs to study whether it is something that would allow them to be competitive when recruiting for coaches.”

State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D, Kapalama-Kalihi Valley), who introduced SB 590, “I think it is fair. A lot of (the coaches) don’t get the 10 years. We already have something on the books but have never pulled the trigger, so this bill reiterates (the possibility).”

The bill would allow new employees to enroll in the optional program within 90 days of employment and would prohibit transferring from the optional plan to the state system. It would “require UH to make annual contributions for its employees within the optional retirement system and allow the retirement benefits of the UH optional retirement system to be subject to collective bargaining negotiations for the bargaining unit for personnel other than UH faculty.”…

SB590: Text, Status

read … University of Hawaii athletics looks to reduce expenses

Seniors Must Wait: HGEA Gets Vaccinations by Striking

KHON: … In-person food safety inspections were put on hold on Monday, Feb. 8, because the head of the Food Safety Branch wanted his staff to be vaccinated. KHON2 learned on Tuesday, Feb 9, workers have been told they will be scheduled to receive their vaccinations…. Peter Oshiro tells KHON2 he is still not sending his staff out until after they get their second shots….

(See how that works?)

KHON2 checked with the (corrupt) Honolulu Liquor Commission that also sends investigators out into the field (to collect bribes) and a spokeswoman said:

“All front line essential City employees of the Honolulu Liquor Commission have been offered the vaccine. Due to privacy issues, we cannot comment any further.”

…some teachers have been vaccinated and others are still waiting but that does not mean one is valued over the other. There are about 230,000 people in Phase 1B….

read … Food Safety Branch staff gets notice to schedule for vaccination

State Unemployment System Has No Idea When System Will be Fixed--Thousands Await Late Payments

HPR: … Although Congress extended jobless benefits in late December, the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ out-of-date computer system has created delays in processing certain claims.

As a result, thousands of Hawaii residents have gone more than a month without unemployment benefits….

“We don’t have programmers who actually understand the computer language used to program this application,” said DLIR Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio in an interview with HPR.

Perreira-Eustaquio noted that in addition to problems finding coders who can create a new application for the latest federal extension, her department’s information technology infrastructure is so old that rushing could crash the entire system, leaving even more unemployment claimants high and dry.

She could not provide an estimate on when the work would be complete.

Last week the Labor Department signed a contract with Boise-based Solid State Operations to modernize it computer system, although the short term delays will likely persist.

While that new system will not be ready for months at a minimum, Perreira-Eustaquio says it will represent a substantial improvement from the current problem-plagued process….

read … State Unemployment System Flounders As Thousands Await Late Payments

Proposal To Scrap Kauai’s Two-Test Protocol For Arriving Travelers Advances

CB: …Kauai County’s requirement that tourists be tested for COVID-19 for a second time before they are free to roam the Garden Island would be preempted under a bill that won preliminary approval from two House committees on Tuesday.

House Bill 1286 was introduced by House Speaker Scott Saiki, and is backed by hoteliers and other players in the tourism industry. They say Hawaii’s patchwork of testing and quarantine protocols is confusing for would-be tourists, and is discouraging people from coming here….

read … Proposal To Scrap Kauai’s Two-Test Protocol For Arriving Travelers Advances

Who Will Blangiardi Appoint to Police Commission?

CB: … Almost a year after national protests demanded increased accountability for police, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has an important decision to make: his first appointment to the Honolulu Police Commission.

His pick will join six other volunteer members whose job it is to provide oversight to one of the country’s largest police departments and who have the power to hire and fire the police chief.

The mayor’s decision could tip the scales of the commission, whose members’ attitudes toward Police Chief Susan Ballard range from complimentary to critical. The decision comes at a crucial time for the chief, whose five-year term is up for renewal at the end of next year. …

read … Will This Watchdog Bite? The Honolulu Police Commission Is At A Crossroads

HB901: Environmental Review

IM: … The Hawaii County Planning Commission concluded that the proposed construction of two underpasses below the Akoni Pule Highway for golf carts and maintenance vehicles did not trigger Chapter 343 and that no environmental assessment was required.

JGL Enterprises, Inc., filed an application for a Shoreline Management Area (SMA) permit to development of Napilihau Villages I, II, III and IV, a 312-unit multi-family residential development at Nãpili on the island of Maui in 1992.

The Kahana Sunset Owners Association intervened in a contest case proceeding.

The Maui Planning Commission concluded that building a culvert under a public roadway outside of that shoreline setback area did not trigger Chapter 343, that no environmental assessment was required.

The Hawai`i Supreme Court issued rulings in Kahana Sunset Owners v. County of Maui 86 Hawai`i 66, 947 P.2d 378 (1997), and Citizens v. County of Hawaii 91 Haw. 94, 979 P.2d 1120 (1999), that use of state lands triggers Chapter 343.

HB 901 / SB 1055 are part of Governor Ige`s package of bills.  The bills propose eliminating Chapter 343 for discretionary permits for secondary actions using state land. Thus undoing the court decisions.

“Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, for any primary action that requires a permit or approval [that is not subject to a discretionary consent and] that involves a secondary action that is ancillary and limited to the installation, improvement, renovation, construction, or development of infrastructure within an existing public right-of-way or highway, that secondary action shall be exempt from this chapter.” ….

read … Hawai`i Considering Gutting Environmental Reviews

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