Auditor Exposes Speaker's Office--Manipulating 'Working Group' to Save OHA's Dirty Secrets
Survey: Pandemic Affecting Mental Health
Tax Frenzy at the Legislature - No one's wallet is safe!
Bills on the Move: Conveyance Tax, Pension Suspension, Un-Affordable Housing
DLIR Fixes Antique Computers--PEUC Checks Coming
Pssst…Hey buddy, can you use $100M? How about $150M?
ILind: … Take a gander at SB579 and its companion measure, HB689…. $100 million in special purpose revenue bonds for something called House of Aloha Enterprises LLC….
Rather amazingly, both bills have been passed by their subject matter committees, and referred on to the respective money committees, House Finance and Senate Ways and Means.
Even more amazing is the fact that the committee reports accompanying the bills provide absolutely no indication of what House of Aloha Enterprises LLC is going to do with $100 million, what resources it has to put into such an ambitious project, or what business experience its principals have that might suggest the possibility of succeeding in delivering on its wholly vague promises. The poor committee staff didn’t have much to work with, since testimony submitted on the bills was devoid of anything meaningful, and the committee reports reflect that….
The company was registered with the state’s Business Registration Division on October 29, 2020, listing its principal business address as 65-165 Kamehameha Highway in Haleiwa. It is an address at Haleiwa Town Center. Unsigned testimony submitted on behalf of Mason Industries LLC states that House of Aloha plans a “retail outlet” at Haleiwa Town Center which it claims “will generate revenue, taxes, fees, lease and rents….”…
The sole member of Mason Industries LLC, according to state business registration records, is Melvin G. Mason Jr. The company’s principal address is a rented residence in Kailua-Kona. It first registered to do business in May 2018.
Mason has another company, Keahole Industries LLC, registered at the same address. It was registered to do business beginning in 2017, but has failed to file required annual business registrations with the state for two years.
According to the state’s Business Registration Division, “This business is not in good standing.”
What appears to be a companion business registered by Mason, Keahole Enterprises LLC, is currently registered. It was first registered by Mason on October 24, 2018. A company by the same name was registered by former state legislator Jon Riki Karamatsu on April 1, 2016. The company went out of business by filing Articles of Termination on May 24, 2018.
The other members of House of Aloha Enterprises are equally unknown entities–Hawaiian Quintessence LLC, International and Pacific Enteprises LLC, and Wahineokai LLC….
ILind: How about we toss in another $50 million for the same folks?
Related: SB652: Will Legislators Give Drunk Rave Promoter $50M?
read … Pssst…Hey buddy, can you use $100 million?
The Fight Between Hawaii’s State Auditor And House Speaker Is Heating Up
CB: … Saiki issued a memo to House members on Jan. 14 announcing he planned to appoint the working group to undertake what amounts to “an audit of the Auditor’s Office.” …
Kondo has asked Young to explain under what authority the working group was created, and also what it is supposed to accomplish.
In his Wednesday letter Kondo said he has received no response, “and, because of the importance of protecting the office’s independence and credibility, ask that the Working Group suspend its work until the questions are resolved.”…
Kondo also questioned the role of former acting state Tax Director Rona Suzuki. Gov. David Ige withdrew Suzuki’s nomination as tax director in July when it appeared she would not be confirmed by the Senate, and Saiki later hired her as a senior advisor in his office.
According to Kondo, Young forwarded an email string to Kondo that showed Suzuki was “working with and directing the Working Group” in its efforts to find reports that had been submitted late to the Legislature.
Kondo wrote that he believed the working group “was supposed to be working independently and objectively. However, it appears that the Speaker and his office are actively assisting the working group in its efforts to find issue with our work.”…
CB: An Office Of Public Accountability Is Unnecessary And Unwise
read … The Fight Between Hawaii’s State Auditor And House Speaker Is Heating Up
Amendments give Hawaiian Home Lands 5 years ‘Self-Determination’ to determine casino future—maybe sell weed
SA: … Proposed amendments to Senate Bill 1321 would kick the issue of Hawaii’s first casino back to the Hawaiian Home Lands Commission, which voted 5 to 4 to endorse the concept in December and introduce it before the Legislature.
The Hawaiian Home Lands commission would have until Dec. 31, 2026 to figure out whether it wants to pursue the resort casino concept, under several amendments to SB1321 proposed by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, said state Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, chairwoman of the Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee today.
One of Dela Cruz’s amendments would require endorsement of the casino concept by “a super majority” of the Hawaiian Home Lands commission, Shimabukuro said.
At Dela Cruz’ suggestion, Shimabukuro said that the amended SB1321 would not provide a “green light” for gambling, but would be limited to only allow the Home Lands commission to decide how to proceed as part of Native Hawaiian “self determination.”
The proposed amended bill would not allow gaming “across the board” and would specifically prohibit Native American Indian tribes from operating casinos in the islands, Shimabukuro said.
Tyler Gomes, deputy to DHHL Chairman William Aila, told the Hawaiian Affairs Committee that “we appreciate the affirmation of self determination.”
Gomes said the proposed amendments that would give the commission five years to debate a casino would allow “for the department to do due diligence.”
The original version of SB1321 was opposed by the Honolulu Prosecutor’s office and Honolulu Police Department, along with a petition signed by 15,600 people that was organized by Hawaiian Affairs Committee member Sen. Kurt Fevella, the Senate Republican minority leader and minority floor leader.
The House Economic Development Committee last week deferred the original House version of SB1321, stalling it in the House.
The Hawaiian Affairs Committee today also considered two new bills, SB85 — which would allow DHHL to pursue “lottery and bingo enterprises;” and SB86 — which would allow DHHL to “engage in the operation of medical cannabis dispensaries.”
Both bills are expected to return to the Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee at an unspecified date, Shimabukuro said.….
read … Amendments give Hawaiian Home Lands 5 years to determine casino future
Strong evidence in-person schooling can be done safely, CDC says
AP: … The nation’s top public health agency today provided a roadmap for reopening schools in the middle of a pandemic, emphasizing mask-wearing and social distancing and saying vaccination of teachers is important but not a prerequisite for reopening.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the long-awaited update, but it cannot force schools to reopen, and agency officials were careful to say they are not calling for a mandate that all U.S. schools be reopened.
They said there is strong evidence now that in-person schooling can be done safely, especially at lower grade levels, and the guidance is targeted at schools that teach kindergarten up to 12th grade….
read … Strong evidence in-person schooling can be done safely, CDC says
More In-Person Voting Sites Proposed For Hawaii
CB: … In 2019, reforming Hawaii’s election law and setting up an all-mail voting system were priorities for the Legislature.
This time around, lawmakers are seeking to prevent the long lines seen outside the few voting centers in the state on Election Day where thousands of people waited for hours to cast their ballots, delaying the release of results for hours after the polls were to close….
One proposal that won approval in a key Senate committee Wednesday tries to address some of those issues from the 2020 election.
Senate Bill 548 — which would allow the counties to establish more voter service centers — is now teed up for a vote by the full Senate.
The lines on Election Day were caused in part because the Legislature killed a proposal last year to give county clerks the flexibility to open more voter centers. The law currently requires that all centers be open during normal government hours and on the same days.
SB 548 requires each county to have at least one center, with the option to open more centers with varying hours. Both the state and Honolulu elections offices support SB 548….
read … More In-Person Voting Sites Proposed For Hawaii
187K Download COVID Spy App
CB: … After another push, many more Hawaii residents have adopted smartphone technology that will notify them if they were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
As of Feb. 11, the AlohaSafe Alert app has been downloaded 187,000 times — up from 100,000 downloads as of Feb. 5, developers and officials with the Hawaii Department of Health said Thursday.
Developers had aimed to reach at least 150,000 downloads, representing 15% of smartphone users in Hawaii….
read … Hawaii’s COVID-19 Tracking App Picks Up Speed
Program buys free tickets for 50 ‘remote Workers’ to come to Hawaii
PBN: … The Movers and Shakas program has selected its first 50 work-from-Hawaii participants after receiving nearly 90,000 applications for the first cohort.
The 50 participants are employed by companies in a variety of industries such as technology, education, consulting, energy and financial services. A majority of them — 65% — are former Hawaii residents and 75% of them have family in Hawaii.
In addition to working for their employers remotely from Oahu, members of the cohort will volunteer at least 15 hours of their time with such nonprofit organizations as the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, Hawaii Literacy, The Pantry by Feeding Hawaii Together and Girl Scouts of Hawaii.
“I left Hawaii right after high school, but still consider it my true home,” Jennica Goo, a full-stack software engineer who works remotely for Zillow Group and was one of the founding members of the company’s Indigenous People’s Network, said in a statement. “I am most excited about the opportunity to volunteer with nonprofits and put my skills to work where I can benefit the local community the most. I want to look for opportunities to connect my work at Zillow with the Native Hawaiian community.” ….
read … Movers and Shakas picks first 50 work-from-Hawaii members from pool of 90K
Hawaii lawmakers again seek disclosure about inmate deaths
SA: … Hawaii lawmakers are once again trying to bring greater transparency to incidents of inmates dying in Hawaii’s jails and prisons after a past effort to force Hawaii’s Department of Public Safety to release such information largely failed.
Two years ago, the state passed Act 234 requiring the Public Safety director to provide the governor and Legislature with reports on inmate deaths. The reports are required to include the name of the inmate, their gender, age, where they died and whether there is any indication that a sexual assault was associated with the incident. Follow-up reports are required when the official cause of death is determined.
But the Department of Public Safety has routinely withheld much of this information from both lawmakers and the public since the law was enacted, arguing that federal law forbids its release even though other states routinely make it public.
A new bill, passed out of the House Committee on Corrections, Military and Veterans on Wednesday, specifies that the public safety director doesn’t have the discretion to withhold such information. If its release does contradict a federal or state law, the bill requires the department to cite the statute.
The measure also requires the Department of Public Safety to make a copy of the report available to both the family of the inmate who died and the media.
The bill has the backing of the state’s Office of the Public Defender, as well as the Community Alliance on Prisons, led by Kat Brady, a longtime advocate for inmate protections and prison reform. The Department of Public Safety is opposing the measure….
read … Hawaii lawmakers again seek disclosure about inmate deaths
Maui Water Treatment Operator Sues County Over Whistleblower Retaliation
CB: … The man says he lost his job after pointing out that a cleaning solution had spilled into the water supply in May….
Soon after, the County of Maui’s Department of Water Supply issued a statement acknowledging that “elevated levels of turbidity were caused by a small amount of filter cleaning solution inadvertently entering the system.”
The lawsuit alleges that Hooks’ employment was terminated in July….
read … Maui Water Treatment Operator Sues County Over Whistleblower Retaliation
Proud Boys Hawaii founder and suspected accomplice plead not guilty to conspiracy charges
SA: … In a statement, attorney Edward MacMahon who is representing Ochs said, “Mr. Ochs came to Washington on January 6, 2021, armed only with a camera that he used to film and report the events of that day as a journalist. He did not conspire with anyone to violate any law. He did not deface the Capitol, damage the Capitol or take any government property at any time. We look forward to a fair trial which will clear Mr. Ochs and vindicate the not guilty plea that was entered today.”
An indictment alleges Ochs and DeCarlo raised funds online to travel to Washington, D.C., from their home states to stop Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote count to affirm Joe Biden’s win in the presidential election.
Ochs and DeCarlo, who is also known as Dick Necarlo and Dick Lambaste, posted live photos and videos of themselves inside the U.S. Capitol on social media on the day of the violent siege.
According to a criminal complaint, Ochs posted a video on social media of himself and DeCarlo walking down a residential neighborhood after leaving the Capitol.
The complaint quotes Ochs saying in the video: ”Viewers, we have some good news. We have just, uh, peeked through this window, and on the television the headline reads that Congress stopped the vote when we stormed the Capitol. And, as we’ve been saying all day, we came here to stop the steal.” DeCarlo interjects “we did it,” according to the complaint.
The men have claimed to different news organizations that they were there working as journalists.
The U.S. House Periodical Press Gallery, which is in charge of administering Congressional press credentials, has said the office did not issue credentials to them.
The indictment also alleges the men scrawled “Murder The Media” on the Memorial Door of the Capitol and stealing a pair of flex handcuffs belonging to Capitol Police….
CB: Hawaii Proud Boy In Pro-Trump Mob Pleads Not Guilty To Conspiracy
read … Proud Boys Hawaii founder and suspected accomplice plead not guilty to conspiracy charges
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