Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted May 15, 2021
Ala Moana Park bathrooms filthy
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Hawaii’s Fishermen Are Worried About China’s Fleet. So Is The Military
CB: … Hawaii’s commercial fishermen and the U.S. military have a potential threat in common — China’s fleet of government-subsidized ships that has been straying into more distant waters in search of seafood and more influence.
Local longliners have reported seeing increasing numbers of Chinese vessels near the islands, accusing them of overfishing and intimidating tactics.
Sometimes the ships are fishing, sometimes they’re making their way into the eastern Pacific and sometimes they’re seemingly just sitting at sea, says Eric Kingma, executive director of the Hawaii Longline Association.
He noted that a group of Chinese vessels seemed to be loitering north of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge last week. “What are they fishing for? I don’t know,” said Kingma. “But it’s an example of them being close to Hawaii and, we believe, getting closer.”…
The Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard warned in December that China “deploys a multilayered fleet” that includes “naval auxiliaries disguised as civilian vessels” that it has deployed against neighboring countries like Vietnam and the Philippines.
Analysts have closely watched coordination between Chinese military and ostensibly civilian vessels for years in the South China Sea and some say Beijing could be using the same tactics to further extend its influence in the Pacific….
During the first two months of 2020, the Coast Guard intercepted several foreign fishing vessels operating within the territory of Guam and Hawaii’s maritime borders known as “exclusive economic zones.” The Coast Guard said it was the first time it had done so since 2012.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched an investigation into the incursions, but the agency has refused to publicly confirm the nationalities of the vessels until after it submits its biennial fisheries report to Congress sometime this year….
read … Hawaii’s Fishermen Are Worried About China’s Fleet. So Is The Military
With TVRs Down from COVID, DOTAX, DPP Send Investigators to Finish Them Off
SA: … The state Department of Taxation already has collected $4.1 million this year from vacation rental owners who owed back taxes, and through continued stepped- up enforcement expects to easily hit $12 million by year’s end.
The state has deployed 13 tax investigators to go after vacation rental tax violations, and they’re on a roll.
Issac Choy, director of the state Department of Taxation, said this year’s figures are on top of the $6.2 million that the department collected in 2020 from vacation rental owners or operators that owed transient accommodations taxes, general excise taxes, penalties and interest….
Choy said the department is working its way thorough the various vacation rental platforms, which have become increasingly cooperative in sharing tax informa- tion with the state. On just one platform alone, the state found 5,100 out of 7,300 hosts had not been paying GET or TAT taxes, he said.
Choy would not identify the platform, but said the state has been sending out letters and making contact with the thousands of people that haven’t been paying their share of state taxes….
The average unit occupancy at a vacation rental in Hawaii in March was more than 62%, compared with just 43% for Hawaii hotels, according to a Hawaii Tourism Authority report that utilized Transparent Intelligence data. March was the most recent month for which data was available….
Besides the back taxes and interest, Choy said violators face severe civil penalties, which start at $500 a day for the first violation and move up to $1,000 a day for the second violation. The penalty for frequent violators is $5,000 a day.
He said one county taxpayer already had to pay the state $400,000.
“This was for a single-family dwelling on the North Shore. That’s a lot and that’s for many years,” Choy said….
Eugene Takahashi, second deputy director for the city Department of Planning and Permitting, said the pandemic has affected enforcement as “owners and tenants are reluctant to allow inspections because of possible exposure to the virus.”
Takahashi said the department also has unfilled positions.
“We have 18 inspectors involved in vacation rental enforcement, but this is not their only task,” Takahashi said. “They have other responsibilities, such as building inspections. We have four vacancies that we hope to fill.”
Still, statistics from the department show that DPP issued more notices of violation during the pandemic than it did the year before. In 2020 the city issued 325 notices of violation, compared with 264 in 2019.
In 2020, 59% of the notices of violation were corrected; however, 51 became notices of order. The city assessed more than $3.4 million worth of fines, of which $31,000 was paid.
In 2019, 64% of short-term rental notices of violation were corrected, with 42 advancing to notices of order. In 2019 the city assessed $136,200 in fines, of which $2,100 was paid.
This year the city has issued 42 notices of violation and nine notices of order. Takahashi said none of the incidents have been corrected so far.
DPP has asked the state tax department to share tax information so that the city can more easily identify vacation rentals that are operating outside of zoning laws.
SA Editorial: HB862 Getting control of vacation rentals
SA: Hawaii monthly bankruptcies rise for first time in year
read … State tax crackdown garners millions in unpaid Hawaii vacation rental taxes
Kauai Mayor Dreams of $18M/yr from 3% TAT Hike
TGI: … The state Legislature’s answer to this was House Bill 862, which states that in lieu of the TAT, counties may establish ordinances seeking up to 3% of gross transient rental proceeds, fair-market-rental-value taxable. Ige’s deadline for a decision is early June.
For Kaua‘i, 1% is projected to equate to $6 million, county Managing Director Michael Dahilig reported to the County Council on Friday.
Dahilig indicated that the county is continuing discussions with the governor’s office, but said Mayor Derek Kawakami believes tourist dollars are needed to keep the county going.
“Mayor’s position is that we cannot have a sustainable budget picture without the ability to recapture revenues from tourism activities,” Dahilig said. “What that looks like and how that needs to be structured is what we’re going to be first conveying to the governor.” …
For fiscal year 2021, which the county is in until June 30, the administration is continuing to lobby for the release of the withheld TAT, too.
Other parts of HB862 reduce the budget for the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority by $19 million.
Dahilig said the county would also need to assess how it would go about administering the tax, which he noted as different than a regular surcharge.
“It does seem a bit of a challenge in terms of being able to start from scratch on something that would be pretty foreign to us, since we do not at this point in time have a database or track transit-accommodation activities at the hotel and resort,” Dahilig said. “
Kawakami’s fiscal year 2022 supplemental budget submittal features a $243.3 million operating budget and $24.8 million capital improvement project budget. The mayor’s first budget was transmitted in March, and a supplemental budget with slight changes came the first week of May….
HPR: Meetings, Conventions Will Take Longer To Recover As State Sees Signs Of Tourism Returning
read … County mulls new tax ability
HB499 Really About Pohakuloa?
SA: … The Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) on Hawaii island, for example, has been the subject of legal action that has revealed decades of weak state oversight of land-use conditions, which in turn has allowed the military to fall short of environmental obligations there. In fact, some opponents of HB 499 fear that the state BLNR could extend the Army lease for PTA’s 23,000 acres, which is set to expire in 2029….
read … Editorial: Don’t lease public land for 100 years
$25 billion bill in Congress seeks to speed up modernization of Pearl Harbor
SA: … A bipartisan bill seeks $25 billion to upgrade the Navy’s four shipyards — Pearl Harbor included — sooner rather than later, as well as to make improvements to private yards in the face of rapid Chinese military expansion.
The Navy since 2018 has had plans for a 20-year, $21 billion Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program, but some in Congress believe that’s too long and that funding for critical shipyard improvements could get diverted over time.
Meanwhile, the threat keeps advancing by leaps and bounds.
“Current infrastructure cannot keep pace with China,” the new bill states. “China has already surpassed the U.S. Navy as the world’s largest by sheer numbers of warships.” ….
read … $25 billion bill in Congress seeks to speed up modernization of Pearl Harbor
Will Death of Colt Brennan Lead to Mental Health Reform?
OCR: … A big part of that is filling the fracture between the mental health and physical health care systems, which are largely divorced from one another.
In just the latest example of something gone terribly awry, former Mater Dei High and Saddleback College quarterback Colt Brennan died early Tuesday morning, May 11, at age 37, of what appears to be an overdose.
Brennan, who starred at the University of Hawaii and had a brief NFL career, struggled with substance use. Prior to his death he spent months at a private treatment center in Costa Mesa. Last week, he wound up at his parents’ home in Orange County, appearing intoxicated. His father took him to a hospital emergency room, where Brennan was apparently stabilized and, because he was an adult, was released without the family being notified. He then apparently went to a hotel, ingested something with fentanyl, and never regained consciousness, his father said.
“We do not have a process for involuntary treatment for substance use disorders no matter how severe,” said Aimee Moulin, behavioral health director for the UC Davis Medical Center’s emergency department and a director at CA Bridge. “For mental illness, we can treat someone against their will if they meet certain criteria. There is a lot of overlap between overdose and suicidality that is under-appreciated.
“However, if the patient has capacity to make their own decisions, and does not meet criteria for a mental health hold, they get to make their own decisions,” Moulin said.
What happened in the ER, and what should have happened, aren’t clear, but experts suggest different rules in the mental health care system might have changed Brennan’s tragic outcome.
“We need to really start treating people with behavioral health needs the way we treat people with physical health needs, from start to finish,” said Jessica Cruz, Behavioral Health Alliance co-chair and CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness California.
“You’d never turn someone away who’s having a heart attack and needs services. That never would happen if someone showed up with a broken arm. You’d get it fixed.”
A lot of the problems stem from how mental health services are funded, she said. “We have to make sure public and private systems work together in the same way as they would when someone has a physical ailment.” …
CB: Eric Stinton: The Dangers Of Hawaii's Warrior Spirit
read … Plugging deadly holes in California’s addiction treatment system
The Investigation Into The Ex-Maui Police Chief’s Alleged Hit And Run Is In
CB: … The investigation, conducted by the Honolulu Police Commission to avoid a conflict of interest, concludes that officers properly followed internal protocol in their investigation of the November hit and run and that a civil action was appropriate because it happened on private property….
read … The Investigation Into The Ex-Maui Police Chief’s Hit And Run Is In
How Juul Got Vaporized
T: … Shortly after the product launched, Ad Age published an article in which a spokesperson from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids voiced concerns about Juul’s marketing appealing to kids. “We’re seeing more and more irresponsible marketing of unregulated products such as e-cigarettes,” the spokesperson said. “We are concerned any time a new product or new advertising campaign goes public regarding cigarettes and tobacco and their addictive nicotine.”
The story was a wake-up call. “We were like, ‘Oh my God, that’s terrible,’” says a source involved in the launch campaign, who wished to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak about their time at the company. Company executives insist they didn’t want their products to appeal to kids, or even to be perceived as appealing to kids. The Vaporized campaign had been in the world for only a short time, but already Pax executives were realizing it could sink the company before it swam.
In July 2015, just a month after Juul officially launched, Pax investor Alexander Asseily began to get very vocal about his concerns, according to documents included in a legal complaint filed by the Hawaii attorney general in 2020 and currently moving through pretrial hearings. If the company kept marketing in ways that could be seen as targeting kids, Pax was going to get lumped in with Big Tobacco, an industry infamous for preying on young people with its marketing. “We will continue to have plenty of agitation if we don’t come to terms with the fact that these substances are almost irretrievably connected to the sh-ttiest companies and practices in the history of business,” Asseily wrote in an email to board members included in the Hawaii legal complaint. “It’s not about faking it—it’s about doing it correctly … which could mean not doing a lot of things we thought we would do like putting young people in our poster ads or drafting in the wake of big players in the market.”….
For years, that allegation mostly amounted to bad press. Now, though, Juul may be in for its most serious threats yet. The outcome of Stein’s lawsuit in North Carolina could set a precedent for the hundreds of other pending cases against Juul, filed by school districts, individuals and attorneys general from states including Massachusetts, California, Colorado, Hawaii and Minnesota….
read … How Juul Got Vaporized
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