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Thursday, February 18, 2021
February 18, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:11 PM :: 2524 Views

Schatz Bill Would Transfer Hawaiian Lands to Federal Government

9/11 Conspiracy Theorist to Rewrite Maui County Charter?

Kahele Accepting Appropriation Requests

OHA Accepting Grant Requests for DHHL Communities

Laura Thielen confirmed as Director of Honolulu Parks and Recreation

HB1208: Legislators New Trick to Pass HSTA Property Tax

CB: … Some House lawmakers have hatched a complex plan to export more of Hawaii’s weighty tax burden to non-residents, but it would require an amendment to the Hawaii state Constitution and a huge leap of faith on the part of the voters.

House Bill 1208 and House Bill 1209, which lawmakers say go “hand in hand,” together propose a tax system overhaul. The first bill asks the voters to amend the constitution to allow the state to impose property taxes.

If that idea wins approval — which is a long shot — HB 1209 would then “suspend” the Hawaii state personal and corporate income taxes.

Underlying the proposal is a sense among some lawmakers that Hawaii’s existing system of taxation is far too generous to out-of-state investors who snap up homes and other property here, and then benefit from the lowest property tax rates in the nation.

Supporters of the bills say they want to boost property taxes on non-owner occupied properties, and then use the extra money to reduce the income tax burden now carried by state residents to zero….

The available evidence suggests that will be a tough sell. The state constitution gives the authority to impose property taxes exclusively to the city and counties, so HB 1208 asks the voters to grant the state a major new taxing power. A similar proposal in 2018 was unpopular with the public.

Still, HB 1208 and HB 1209 won preliminary approval from the state House on Friday, and will now get a hearing in the House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee….

Tom Yamachika, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, is a skeptic. He noted the constitutional amendment as written does not say what kinds of property would be hit by a state property tax surcharge, or how large that surcharge would be.

He also worried that this Legislature or lawmakers in the future will be free to change the terms of this arrangement once the amendment is approved. He warned that if the proposed constitutional amendment passes, “the genie is out of the bottle.”

“There is no obligation for the Legislature to pass or enact House Bill 1209 if the constitutional amendment is enacted, and there is no obligation for any subsequent Legislature to stick with it any time after that,” Yamachika told Belatti.

“So, it can be repealed the next year, it can be repealed the next minute. Any number of things could happen, and this Legislature is in no position to … hamstring the actions of a subsequent one, and so, that’s what we’re afraid of,” he said….

And state Rep. Dale Kobayashi countered what he described as “the myth” that endlessly escalating property values in Hawaii is a good thing….

read … Hawaii’s Tax ‘Imbalance’: Would A New State Property Tax Fix It?

Whac-a-Mole: Kishimoto has new excuse for not reopening schools

KHON: … The rate in Hawaii is so low that all of the islands now qualify for what the CDC says is the safest ‘blue zone,’ with a low risk of transmission.

The Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) and Department of Health (DOH) are still using different parameters, built in part on now-outdated CDC guidance but also local input. The DOH and DOE tell Always Investigating they are not ready to jettison the local model just yet.

(Translation: We are just running down the clock ‘til summer.  Maybe school will start back up in September—but you can be sure that HSTA members will be paid full rate for doing nothing until then.)

“HDOH and partners are reviewing the CDC guidance to decide whether Hawaii’s school guidance should be updated, and if so, in what ways,” state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble said. “The intent behind the existing school guidance was to help Hawaii’s school communities reopen as safely and quickly as possible. This continues to be our guiding principle.”

A DOE spokesperson said: “HIDOE schools use multiple sources to determine when and how to safely bring students back to campus for in-person learning….At this time, 74% of students statewide are spending all or part of their instructional time on campus.”…

CB: … Christina Kishimoto said she’ll meet with state health officials and lawmakers Friday to (pretend to) discuss how best to proceed in light of new federal guidance.  (Then she’ll come up with more excuses on behalf of the HSTA.)….

DS: Biden Backtracks on School Reopenings. Here’s How Left, Unions Put Ideology Before Students.  (Yes.  This is part of a national strategy.)

read … What’s holding up Hawaii schools after CDC says get back to class?

Maui County Cop Fired for Dealing Drugs—Immediately Hired as DoE Teacher

MN: … A 20-day suspension with demotion was ordered for Daniel Imakyure, who was working as a police officer on Molokai at the time the investigation started in 2019. He “intentionally submitted false and misleading written” documents, according to the report. The discipline was held in abeyance because he is no longer employed with MPD, police reported.

In June 2019, police said Imakyure, then 39 and a 10-year police veteran, was arrested for investigation of first-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and criminal conspiracy, after police investigated information suggesting an officer was connected to drug-related activity on Molokai. At the time, he was released pending further investigation, was placed on administrative leave with pay and had his police powers removed, police said ….

HNN: Molokai police officer arrested on drug-related charges

Linkedin: Daniel Imakure hired as Teacher in Oct 2019 after leaving Maui PD

Bonus Read: Mark Whyne, a former Pahoa High School special education teacher accused of the Dec. 29, 2012, shooting death of Faafetai Fiu, a homeless man

read … Police release names of disciplined officers under new state law

State Officials Admit They Have No Idea When New Stadium Would be Finished

CB: … State officials are reevaluating how to finance construction of a new Aloha Stadium, which is expected to cost the state $350 million, while also looking at what it would take to fix up the current stadium.

In the meantime, a group of consultants hired to shepherd development of the stadium and the property around it can’t say when the project will be finished.

For more than a decade, the state has been trying to find a way to replace the 45-year-old Aloha Stadium, which (they suddenly claim) requires more than $400 million in repairs. 

(IQ Test: Are you laughing?)

In 2019, state lawmakers invested $350 million in building a new stadium. Around the same time, the state contracted a consultant team of about a dozen companies lead by Crawford Architects, a Kansas City-based firm with experience building NFL stadiums, to develop the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District, the state’s name for the stadium project and 90-acres surrounding it.

The development has recently been criticized by Gov. David Ige, who suggested that the state make do with the current stadium.

“It’s a very expensive item, and when we look at public schools, health care facilities, the University of Hawaii and other kinds of core infrastructure in our community — it’s hard to say we want to spend $350 million or so on a replacement for a stadium,” Ige said at a Feb. 9 press conference….

HNN: State undecided on whether to redevelop Aloha Stadium or simply fund repairs

read … State Officials Looking For Ways To Finance New Stadium, Repair Old One

Surprise: Aloha Stadium district redevelopment plan divided in 2

SA: … Leaders of the state team driving the project disclosed Wednesday that a shortlist of three qualified developers selected last year will compete only to replace the rusted 50,000-seat stadium with a new 35,000-seat stadium and supporting facilities to be operated and maintained by the winning bidder under a long-term land lease.

A separate effort will be made to find private developers interested in competing to redevelop the balance of the state-owned stadium site largely occupied by 7,476 parking stalls, project officials said.

Originally, redeveloping the entire stadium site with a new sports complex, housing and commercial development that could include restaurants, retail, a hotel and other things was to be done in one swoop….

PBN: P3 redevelopment of Hawaii's Aloha Stadium, surrounding land split in 2

read … Aloha Stadium district redevelopment plan gets divided in 2

For a second day, Hawaii is unable to report the actual number of new COVID cases

HNN: … The state said for a second day lab reporting issues meant it was not clear how many new infections were actually reported. Just 17 new cases were reported in Hawaii on Tuesday.

Of the 29 new cases Wednesday, 17 were on Oahu, nine were on Maui, one on the Big Island and two were out-of-state. There have been 810 cases in the islands in the last 14 days.

The state previously said its lab reporting issues had been fixed, but indicated Wednesday that it might take several days to work out the kinks in the system….

read … For a second day, Hawaii is unable to report the actual number of new COVID cases

HB1142: Electric Car Promoters want to Tax Your Car to Pay for Theirs

HPR: … The proposed measure, HB 1142, would apply a 1 percent general excise tax surcharge on cars with a manufacturer's suggested retail price, or MSRP, of more than $60,000. The collected funds would go int a Public Utilities Commission special fund for electric vehicle charging stations.

The bill was heard at the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce Tuesday.

Those opposing the bill included car dealers, which argue that family vehicles and work trucks would be subject to the additional tax.

Brad Nicolai, president and CEO of JN Automotive Group, noted the negative effects of a national luxury tax from the 1990s.

"If we just referenced what happened in 1991, when there was a luxury tax of 10 percent that was imposed on vehicles that were over $30,000, it had a negative impact over two years in which nationally our industry declined over 23 percent," Nicolai said. "What that means is we're coming out of a pandemic. In March of this year, we had to lay off 50 percent of our employees. Now you're making it more difficult by adding additional costs that will impact our entire industry. That will translate into jobs actually lost."….

read … There is no end to their scams 

SB758: Committee passes marijuana decriminalization bill

HTH: … A measure that would decriminalize the possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana passed its first committee hearing on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 758 would increase from 3 grams to 1 ounce the minimum amount of marijuana that a defendant must possess to be charged with a petty misdemeanor. It would also permit persons previously convicted of possessing 1 ounce or less of marijuana to have the conviction expunged from their criminal record ….

SB758: Text, Status

read … Committee passes marijuana decriminalization bill

State to slash general assistance benefits as number of program recipients swells

HNN: … The state Department of Human Services confirmed Wednesday that the monthly check for the general assistance program will be slashed from $388 to $260 starting in March.

DHS says there are roughly 6,000 recipients across the state, a number which includes a 30% jump since the start of the pandemic.

The sharp spike is the reason why the allowance is being cut. The agency said it’s seeking $5.4 million in emergency appropriations from the state Legislature to make up the loss….

read … State to slash general assistance benefits as number of program recipients swells

Unemployment benefits start flowing again for many but not all

HNN: … There is new hope this week for unemployment claimants waiting on a federal extension of their benefits.

Those waiting on the second Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation were finally able to file their claims on Monday after more than a month-long delay as the state scrambled to re-implement the federal extension program on its outdated computer system.

The state started processing the second round of PEUC claims Monday and said people could have been paid as early as Tuesday, processing around 10,000 claims each night out of some 68,000, but Hawaii News Now hasn’t heard of anyone being paid yet.

Many of them are getting their monetary determination, which is a big step, but many people are still waiting on the actual payments and some are still waiting on the first round of PEUC: the first 13-week federal extension after exhausting regular state benefits.

Because HNN rarely gets a response from the DLIR, a lot of the information and stories compiled are from claimants reaching out to the newsroom and posting on a very popular Facebook group called Hawaii Unemployment Updates and Support Group….

read … Unemployment benefits start flowing again for many but not all

Bill to Terminate Contested Case Proceedings Was Killed

IM:… House Speaker Saiki introduced a bill to do away with contested case proceedings, to require those with concerns to go to court (HB 344)

Three entities supported the bill: DLNR, Maunakea Observatories, and the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce.

One hundred submitted testimony in opposition: 84 individuals and 16 entities.

The House Committee on Judiciary & Hawaiian Affairs (JHA) deferred (killed) the bill….

read … Bill to Terminate Contested Case Proceedings Was Killed

A New Day For The Hawaii GOP?

CB: … It was another dismal election year for the Republican Party in Hawaii as it lost a longstanding Republican seat while gaining none.

Battling an identity crisis, the party has transformed into a party influenced by opportunistic populist candidates. In a very blue state with so few Republican members in the Legislature, arrogantly continuing down this path would have been a death sentence….

On Wednesday, I was voted in as the new House Minority Leader. I am grateful to be able to accept this challenge in just my second session, along with Minority Floor Leader Rep. Lauren Matsumoto. There has not been an all-female Minority Leadership Team in over two decades. We have a lot of work to do….

The party was fighting against itself and would not have survived. The problem is not with the majority. The problem was within the Hawaii GOP, as there was no clear message or leadership to move us forward in the direction we needed to go….

In the past, broken promises of party growth and a caucus with no policy counterpart to the majority have come at a great cost. While this sounds harsh, and I take no pleasure in pointing out our missteps, the results speak for themselves.

In the past decade, Republican representation in the House of Representatives has dwindled from a high of eight to a new low of four in 2021. Former Republican leaders made promises in the state House to grow our numbers and reapplied the “do the same things, expect different results” approach that led to a predictable outcome….

It is high time we become the Party of Lincoln and not a party on the fringe. Hawaii deserves better, and it deserves a Republican Party that fights for the people’s best interests instead of fighting among themselves.

Now we can unite under a leader who shares the vision of a prosperous future rather than stand as four individuals that fight over empty titles. The old way of doing things was not sustainable, and the people needed new leadership to bring them into a place where their voices are heard….

(Clue: All rhetoric, nothing specific.)

read … Rep Val Okimoto, Caucus Chair

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