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Monday, April 11, 2022
April 11, 2022 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:35 PM :: 2492 Views

DPP Scandal Spreads to Liquor Commission?

Has US Rep. Kai Kahele Given Up On Washington?

CB: …The Hawaii congressman, who hasn’t been to the nation’s capital since January, has been having other members cast his votes for months. ….

When Kai Kahele announced he was running for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District in 2019, he vowed one thing to his future constituents — that he’d show up and do the job.

It was a stark contrast to the person who was sitting in the seat at the time.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat, had just announced she was running for president, and there were concerns that she had already given up on the district she had represented since 2013. Kahele attacked Gabbard’s naked political ambition and promised he was different.

Now, he seems to have backed away from that commitment…. 

In letters filed with the House Clerk’s Office, including one dated April 4, Kahele wrote that he is voting by proxy “due to the ongoing public health emergency.”

His social media accounts, however, have shown him traveling around Hawaii, including between islands, to meet with local officials and constituents and hold press events while courting a run for the governor’s office.

Kahele, too, continues to work as a Hawaiian Airlines pilot, a job that paid him nearly $120,000 in 2020, according to his most recent House financial disclosure report. As a member of Congress he earns an annual salary of $174,000.

Kahele’s absence has not gone unnoticed, according to two Washington-based lobbyists who spoke to Civil Beat on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to do so by their firms.

Congress is now in the middle of appropriations season and members are crafting their requests for federal dollars.

The lobbyists said Kahele’s office has been slow to seek these requests for the upcoming year when compared to other members, including Case, who sits on the Appropriations Committee.

There are also concerns that Kahele is not fully engaged with his committees, which oversee transportation and the military, two critical topics for Hawaii, and that his office has done little to pick up the slack for him while he’s been gone.

Both lobbyists used the same word to describe the response coming out of Kahele’s office when it comes to scheduling meetings or discussing major policy initiatives, such as the National Defense Authorization Act that sets the policy agenda for the U.S. military — “Crickets.”

“This is a significant departure from how they operated in the past,” one of the lobbyists said. “The office always had a work ethic, but it’s obvious that they decided not to show up anymore.”

Proxy voting is only allowed in the House and was approved in May 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic....

read … Has US Rep. Kai Kahele Given Up On Washington?

Political scheming taints tourism bill

CB: … Fatal flaws abound in the drastically overhauled Senate Bill 775, relating to the transient accommodations tax (TAT) — but state lawmakers seem bent on ignoring them.

The bill’s most fundamental flaw? It runs afoul of a November Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that basically rejects the “gut and replace” lawmaking maneuver just used on SB 775, House Draft 1. The shifty maneuver strips the contents of a bill late in the legislative process and replaces it with new subject matter that evades full public vetting.

The new version of SB 775 aims to allot $60 million in TAT (aka hotel room tax) revenues to the Hawaii Tourism Authority for normal operations. It also would funnel another $30 million from the TAT for grants to be doled out by a newly created Natural Resource Management Commission under the HTA. The grants would go to nonprofits and local government agencies to address impacts to natural resources and to manage open-space resources.

(Two Words: ‘Slush Fund’.)

All these changes are a far cry from the original SB 775, which sought to adjust the TAT rate based on yearly visitor arrivals. It aimed to raise the current 10.25% TAT by 2% after years in which visitor arrivals exceeded 9 million, and to decrease the rate by 2% if arrivals fell below 8 million. That bill passed the full Senate, 25-0.

Last Tuesday’s major changes by the House committees on Labor and Tourism, and on Finance, mean the amended SB 775 is unlikely to get three readings, as constitutionally required. For any bill to become law, Hawaii’s high court said in its position against gut-and-replace, “the three readings begin anew after a non-germane amendment changes the object or subject of a bill so that it is no longer related to the original bill as introduced.”

Non-germane changes have certainly occurred here — and even well-intentioned bills should not be allowed to skirt good-government processes.

read … Political scheming taints tourism bill

Meth Dealer snared in Miske-related drug bust to be sentenced

ILind: … On Tuesday afternoon, one of the bit players in the ongoing Mike Miske prosecution is scheduled to be sentenced.

Catherine Nicole Zapata, 28, was arrested on August 14, 2018, along with two others, Timothy Taboada and Jacob “Jake” Smith. All three were initially charged with dealing, or possessing with intent to distribute, methamphetamine. Zapata was later charged via an “Information” with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, and pleaded guilty to the charge in November 2019….

Meanwhile, Timothy Taboada, the dealer who Zapata was living with at the time of her arrest, pleaded guilty in November 2019 as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. He was sentenced to 120-months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons online inmate locator, Taboada is currently held at the Federal Correctional Institution in Lompoc, California, a low security facility.

Jake Smith also pleaded guilty in November 2020 to being part of a racketeering conspiracy allegedly directed by Mike Miske, and to conspiring with others to distribute meth. He is currently being held at the Honolulu Detention Center, and is still awaiting sentencing.

Smith is expected to be a key witness if and when the racketeering case against former Kamaaina Termite and Pest Control owner, Mike Miske, and seven co-defendants, eventually goes to trial.

I described the significance of the Smith’s guilty plea in a Civil Beat article published at the time (“The Miske Case: An Insider Pleads Guilty And Is Cooperating With The Feds“).

read … Woman snared in Miske-related drug bust to be sentenced

HB1644: Idiot Legislators Want to Ban Firefighting Foam

CB: … Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, have been used for decades in a wide variety of products – including clothing, furniture and food packaging – to make them fire-retardant, stain-resistant and water-repellent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They’re also an ingredient in firefighting foam that has been used by fire departments, airports and the military….

Hawaii House Bill 1644 would prohibit the manufacture and sale of certain items that contain PFAS: wraps and liners, plates, food boats and pizza boxes.

Lowen said her bill is specifically crafted to ban PFAS in products that already have established alternatives.

Under HB 1644, the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foams would also be prohibited for testing and training purposes.

The bill, which would take effect in 2024, already has passed both chambers of the Hawaii Legislature. Its next stop is the conference committee. …

read … Burn Baby Burn

A Record Number of Hawai‘i Workers Quit Their Jobs in 2021

HB: … The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest data shows that 222,000 local employees had voluntarily resigned. In September alone, about 38,000 people quit – 6.6% of the local workforce and the highest rate for that month in the nation.

In all of 2020, 159,000 local workers resigned and in 2019, 195,000….

read … A Record Number of Hawai‘i Workers Quit Their Jobs in 2021

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