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Sunday, July 4, 2021
July 4, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:50 PM :: 2928 Views

The Verified Complaint In Equity: The Declaration Of Independence

The 1840 Hawaiian Constitution and the Fourth of July

Intent to Veto--the Enola Gay Frankenbill

HD 13 Vacancy: Democrats Send Three Names to Ige

Hawaii Lawmakers Have A Tentative List Of Which Vetoes They’ll Override

CB: … Top leaders of the Hawaii Legislature say they are considering overriding vetoes of at least 10 bills that Gov. David Ige announced last month.

A list being circulated to lawmakers Friday evening also includes several bills that are slated to be amended and a number of bills that lawmakers have agreed to let the governor veto.

The override measures include House Bill 862, which would change the way the state’s tourism marketing agency is funded and give counties the option of taxing hotel rooms….

The possible veto override session is the subject of a memo issued Friday from Senate President Ron Kouchi to all senators and some Senate staff.

Kouchi’s chief of staff, Harrison Kawate, said in the memo that Kouchi, House Speaker Scott Saiki, House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke and Senate Ways and Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz have tentatively identified the following bills for veto in addition to HB 862: House Bill 53, House Bill 54, House Bill 338, House Bill 515, Senate Bill 263, Senate Bill 404, Senate Bill 639, Senate Bill 811 and Senate Bill 1387.

HB 53 authorizes issuance of general obligation bonds. Ige said the federal stimulus funds appropriated in the bill for debt service “are not an allowable use” of the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds that are part of the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act.

HB 54 appropriates general funds and federal stimulus funds to the Department of Budget and Finance to cover fixed costs and replenish the state’s rainy-day fund. Ige supports the bill’s intent but said it does not comport with federal guidelines.

HB 515 requires the State Auditor to audit the Department of Education’s school food services branch to see if local produce is being purchased and served to students. Ige said the DOE is already conducting its own system-wide audit.

SB 811 requires the DOE to publish a weekly report on schools that have reported positive COVID-19 cases. Ige said the bill is unnecessary because the DOE and Department of Health already have a reporting protocol in place.

House Speaker Scott Saiki confirmed Saturday that he and his colleagues are considering an override session next week but declined to identify specific legislation.

“The House and Senate leadership have a preliminary list of bills that we will ask our membership to consider overriding,” he said. “However, the list is very tentative for two reasons: First, the governor has not yet indicated which bills he will actually veto. Second, both bodies need to work over the weekend to determine if we have support for the override votes.”…

In addition to the 10 potential veto overrides, the Kouchi memo also lists three bills for possible amendment: HB 54, the budget bill mentioned above; House Bill 1299, which would repeal, reclassify or abolish funds within various departments and transfer unencumbered balances to the general fund; and Senate Bill 589, which would codify the UH Cancer Center into law as the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii.

Ige said SB 589 may put the state in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s contracting clause, while HB 1299 is unconstitutional….

the Kouchi memo lists 14 bills that would not be taken up. They include House Bill 1296, which would repeal the Hawaii Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund, and House Bill 613, a onetime bonus of $2,000 each to public school teachers….

HTH: Lawmakers prepare for possible veto overrides

read … Hawaii Lawmakers Have A Tentative List Of Which Vetoes They’ll Override

A sustainable solution to Hawaii’s physician workforce shortage

SoR: … Increasing Medicare payments and exempting physician medical practices from Hawaii’s General Excise Tax have come up as potential solutions to the workforce shortage.

Hawaii has one of the lowest Medicare reimbursement rates in the nation. According to an assessment from the Hawaii Physician Shortage Crisis Task Force, providers in Hawaii receive rates similar to Ohio physicians, despite the higher cost of living. Rantz hopes to persuade legislators to make rate changes.

“If we’re successful with working with the federal government, with Medicare and with our congressional delegation, we get an increase in our base rate, similar to what Alaska has.”

Alaska has a Geographic Price Cost Indices (GPCI) of 1.5, which determines a physician’s reimbursement rate. By comparison, other states such as Ohio, California and Hawaii, have GPCIs closer to 1.0. The federal government raised Alaska’s GPCI to accommodate for the difficulty of providing health care services to Alaska’s widespread, rural communities. Rantz and other advocates argue Hawaii’s physicians also serve a widely dispersed, geographically isolated population, and the state GPCI should reflect that.

Even if this were implemented, there’s a catch. A higher reimbursement rate for providers will translate into higher rates for the payers. For providers, medical services fall under Hawaii’s General Excise Tax (making it the only state to tax health insurance), providing more financial strain.

Last session, Rep. Gene Ward introduced a bill that would exempt medical services provided by physicians from the GET. However, the bill stalled in the House Committees on Economic Development and Finance. Rantz says that one of the Foundation’s goals locally is to address the GET.

“Before COVID hit, we were really making progress to get relief for our…community doctors from that GET tax…[We need to be] educating our legislators that our providers are not able to pass that tax on Medicare patients.”

read … A sustainable solution to Hawaii’s physician workforce shortage

PISCES left in the lurch: Hilo-based program pau unless lawmakers save it

HTH: … The bill transferring PISCES to UH-Hilo was House Bill 862, which passed through most of the state Legislature with little controversy or fanfare.

“Things actually looked great for us around May,” Romo said.

However, a Senate committee added several new clauses to the bill that more than tripled its length and changed its focus.

No longer was it a mere straightforward bill transferring one organization between state agencies, but instead became a flashpoint of controversy as it proposed large cutbacks to the budget and duties of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, and changed the way Transient Accommodation Taxes would be distributed to the counties.

The revised HB 862 drew substantial ire from many sectors, including lawmakers and the business community, but successfully passed the Senate regardless. In the meantime, the PISCES-related clauses that remained in the bill went overlooked.

Ultimately, Gov. David Ige announced in June that he intended to veto HB 862 because of its potentially negative impacts on tourism and the state’s economy. A veto also would strike down the language transferring PISCES to UH-Hilo….

Oahu Rep. Sylvia Luke confirmed Friday that the budget issue was caused by a simple oversight — one that has potentially fatal ramifications for the aerospace center.

Romo said PISCES’ five employees have been laid off and its offices closed. Romo himself has taken another job and is now the Maunakea Visitor Information Station manager for Maunakea Support Services….

But even if funding is restored to PISCES, the damage is already done. One former employee has formally retired, Romo said, and another has moved out of state to pursue a doctorate. And Romo said he will not return as PISCES director….

Before it shut down, Romo said PISCES was working on a project under a NASA grant to develop a low-energy and low-cost method of manufacturing lunar landing pads….

read … PISCES left in the lurch: Hilo-based program pau unless lawmakers save it

Rent relief program off to slow start: Only 423 applications approved, despite looming end of eviction moratorium

HTH: … More than $2 million in grants have been awarded to Hawaii County residents seeking rent relief, but more work needs to be done before Gov. David Ige’s eviction moratorium ends next month.

The county’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program provides grants to low-income renters on the island who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to help pay rent or utility bills. According to data from the (activist group) National Equity Atlas, 2,836 households in the county are estimated to be behind on rent….

The average payout from the program is $3,673, which is not much less than the National Equity Atlas’ estimated average per household rent debt of $3,995.

However, only 423 applications for Hawaii County’s ERAP program have been approved since the program started in mid-April, and another 389 applications having been rejected….

Jeff Gilbreath, executive director of Hawaii Community Lending, which is administering the program, conceded that the program has started slow, but added that the county’s rent recovery is on a similar pace with the nationwide average.

Gilbreath said he projects that the ERAP program eventually will meet the current cumulative rent debt in the county — about $11 million — but that will not likely happen before Aug. 6, when Ige’s moratorium on evictions for missed rent payments ends.

“It’s hard to tell what will happen after that,” Gilbreath said. “Some people might not take any steps for rental relief until they have an eviction notice. But I definitely anticipate an increase in applications after the moratorium ends.”...

read … Rent relief program off to slow start: Only 423 applications approved, despite looming end of eviction moratorium

Maui Council OKs hotel building moratorium

MN: … After drawing a high volume of public testimony over weeks of debate, a bill to pause visitor accommodation development in West and South Maui to address over-tourism concerns was approved Friday at the Maui County Council….

read … Council OKs hotel building moratorium

Some Hawaii Kai residents concerned with planned senior community at Kalama Village site

SA: … Kamehameha Schools has identified a site in Hawaii Kai for a planned 366-unit retirement community, but the location isn’t going over well with some community leaders.

The trust informed the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board on Tuesday that the $230 million project proposed by a developer is envisioned on the site of Kalama Village Shopping Center.

Earlier this year, Kamehameha Schools and the developer would not disclose where in Hawaii Kai the project was intended, despite the developer lobbying for and receiving approval from the Legislature to issue up to $500 million in private tax-­exempt special purpose revenue bond financing….

SA: Kupuna housing and NIMBYism

Related: HB869: Legislators Approve $500M Tax Free Bonds for Insiders Without a Plan:

read … Some Hawaii Kai residents concerned with planned senior community at Kalama Village site

Government accuses executives of overvaluing Hawaii architectural and design firm

SA: …The U.S. Department of Labor is suing the top two executives of a local architectural and design firm after they allegedly sold it to their employees for $40 million, about $13-$25 million more than what it was worth.

Brian J. Bowers and Dexter C. Kubota, president and vice president of Bowers + Kubota, worked with a third-party trustee, Nicholas L. Saakvitne, to create an Employee Stock Ownership Plan and to overvalue their company before selling to their employees, according to allegations, valuations and a previous purchase offer for the company detailed in more than three years of federal court filings.

The Labor Department alleges Bowers and Kubota violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, including the section that “prohibits a fiduciary from dealing with the assets of a plan in his own interest or for his own account.”…

read … Government accuses executives of overvaluing Hawaii architectural and design firm

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