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Friday, January 28, 2011
January 28, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 12:40 PM :: 13601 Views

The Real State of the State: An Uncensored Look at the Fiscal Challenges Facing Hawaii

Carnegie Institution Study: Genocide reduces global warming

House GOP Caucus introducing transparency bills

Hawaii Senate takes up civil unions

The full Hawaii Senate is scheduled to vote on whether to create civil unions that would grant same-sex couples the same state rights as married partners.

Eighteen of 25 senators voted for a nearly identical bill last year, indicating the measure likely has enough votes to pass again Friday.

If approved, the bill would move to the state House of Representatives for further consideration.

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Hawaii's debt burden highest in the nation

Total debt issuance and unfunded pension liabilities amount to 16.2 percent of state GDP, Moody's reported. Hawaii ranked second on a per capita basis with debt of $7,987 for every man, woman and child, according to the report….

Hawaii's Employees' Retirement System, which pays pension benefits for state and county employees, was underfunded by $6.24 billion in 2009.

The problem has worsened in the past decade, and the fund is now in the bottom 20 nationally in terms of its funded ratio.

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Pro Bowl At Risk: Abercrombie, medical waste, Aloha Stadium work

In politics and marketing, as in comedy, timing is everything.

And Hawaii bombed on the national stage this week as the NFL Pro Bowl came to town.

First came the rains of two weeks ago that flooded the Waimanalo Gulch landfill, causing stormwater to run into the ocean. With it came trash and medical waste that washed up on Oahu’s Leeward Coast beaches, including Ko Olina, one of the gathering places for Pro Bowlers, their families and fans….

Then there was Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s State of the State speech, in which he referred to Hawaii’s state government as “a battered, under-resourced, and often dysfunctional democracy.”

There’s more.

In order to overcome an $844 million budget deficit over the next two years, Abercrombie said everybody should be prepared to take a hit. That includes diverting to other projects tens of millions of dollars budgeted to renovate Aloha Stadium, the venue for Sunday’s Pro Bowl. That pretty much sends the message to the NFL that what you see is what you’re going to get in the future if you decide to keep the all-star game in Hawaii.

The NFL has committed to holding the Pro Bowl in Hawaii through next year.

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Pension Tax “could be biggest anti-incumbent bill of the year”

It also could turn out to be the biggest anti-incumbent bill of the year: How you voted on HB 1092 could be directly related to how good a chance you will have in the 2012 election.

Obviously folks getting ready to retire and those already retired are most worried about their pensions.

Unfortunately for Abercrombie and the Legislature, the huge baby boom generation is getting ready to retire and these people are not sanguine about losing 10 percent of their pension to state taxes.

Barbara Stanton, AARP state director, agrees, adding that several years ago, an elimination of the pension exemption mistakenly was put in a state bill.

"This caused a firestorm of calls and generated more calls on any single issue in one day to our state office since we opened almost a decade ago," Stanton recalls.

This is the sort of reaction that could make a complete GET overhaul look like the wise way out of a $841 million deficit.

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No Pain for HGEA: Hawaii's Kauai mayor ends county worker furloughs

HONOLULU (AP) — Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. has signed a bill restoring funding in various county departments, ending all county employee furloughs for the remainder of the current fiscal year.

Carvalho signed the measure Thursday, a day after the county council approved it.

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Budget fight will keep lobbyists splashing out mega bucks

Philip Morris USA, Hawaii Operating Engineers Industry Stabilization Fund and Kamehameha Schools spent a combined $700,000 between March 1, 2009, and April 30, 2010, pushing their agendas at the state Capitol, according to filings with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris USA, listed as Altria Client Services in the filings, was by far the biggest spender — for the second year in a row — with nearly $300,000 in lobbying expenditures during that 14-month period.

Renewable energy also made a splash on PBN’s list of the top lobbyists with the entry of Better Place, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based electric-car maker, and Blue Planet Foundation, the Hawaii nonprofit pushing for clean energy and the elimination of the use of fossil fuels.

Blue Planet Foundation was the eighth-biggest spender with $107,932, while Better Place was the 11th-biggest spender with $95,288 during the 14 months, according to PBN research.

Business also ramped up its presence at the Legislature with The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii spending $115,022 during the 2010 session, up 16 percent from the $99,198 spent during the 2009 session.

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The tourism agency's new goals speak to lower expectations and slower recovery

The Hawaii Tourism Authority's new targets for visitor arrivals and spending indicate the agency expects the state's tourism industry to take at least three years to make up for losses in 2008 and 2009.

The board, which manages the state government's tourism budget and sets tourism policy, does not expect visitor spending to surpass 2007's $12.8 billion peak until 2013 and estimates arrivals will take longer to reach the 7.63 million peak of 2006. While driving visitor spending is the board's primary long-term focus, its 2011 strategy appears to retain the crisis posture from 2010. This year the authority will look for ways to increase per-person, per-day visitor spending even as it tries to convert demand from targeted markets into bookings.

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Retirement, Pension key issues as 800 Hawaiian Electric Employees Prepare For Strike

They could walk off their jobs at midnight Monday if no agreement is reached.

There are about 800 unionized employees at HECO and hundreds more on Maui and the Big Island who've already authorized a strike beginning Feb. 1.

At least 300 Hawaiian Electric employees met at Kakaako Waterfront Park Thursday evening, picking up packets of strike information from their union in case they walk off the jobs at midnight Monday.

The union said it opposes management's proposal to require employees to work two more years to get full retirement benefits, pushing back their retirement age to 62 from 60.

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Sen. Baker files bill to remake PUC because it is not supportive enough of Young Bros monopoly

The Democrat chair of the Senate Consumer Protection Committee was very unhappy with the way the PUC last year handled the request by Pasha Hawaii Transport Lines to enter the inter-island shipping market.

The PUC granted Pasha an interim certificate of public convenience and necessity and did so without holding public hearings. Baker was upset because she felt the PUC ignored the concerns of Neighbor Island businesses, particularly farmers, who argued that Pasha would lead to higher prices and possibly reduced service by Young Brothers Ltd., which has held a decades-long monopoly on shipping here.

Baker called the three-member PUC arrogant and said it was not responsive to the concerns of the public.

In a PBN print-edition story on Dec. 10, Baker vowed to make changes. On Jan. 21, she introduced SB99 that would do just that.

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State again considers ban on plastic bags

The Maui and Kauai bans began this month. Honolulu’s council has discussed a ban on Oahu, but nothing has passed yet.

Now the Legislature is getting into the act — again. Senate Bill 1059 would prohibit the use of “single-use plastic checkout bags” starting July 1, 2012, for businesses with annual gross sales of more than $300,000, which pretty much includes every supermarket store and the big-box retailers such as Walmart and Target.

It’s not a new idea at the state level. Previous attempts during the past couple of years to enact a ban have failed.

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Feedback sought on Big Wind project

Many obstacles remain for the Big Wind project. The state still has to do a comprehensive environmental impact statement; there remains resistance among communities on the islands of Lanai and Molokai that won’t benefit from the wind energy, the land on Molokai has yet to be secured and the project is not yet financed.

Feedback sessions on the plan for Big Wind as part of the state’s environmental impact study are scheduled at the following times in these specified locations:

  • McKinley High School cafeteria in Honolulu, 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 1;
  • Pomaikai Elementary School cafeteria on Maui, 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 2;
  • Mitchell Pauole Community Center on Molokai, 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 3;
  • Lanai High School Cafeteria in Lanai City, 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 5.

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Women’s Caucus Targets Sex Crimes, Healthcare, Domestic Abuse

The Women’s Legislative Caucus of the Hawaii State Legislature has proposed a package of bills and resolutions that include a number of measures related to sexual assault, including removal of the statute of limitations on prosecuting rape cases.

The legislative agenda also includes bills and resolutions targeting crime, corrections, healthcare, domestic abuse and political action in its 2011 legislative package.

The group of 15 state representatives and nine state senators announced they were putting forth 15 bills and five resolutions in their package.  The bills include….

HTH: Legislation to protect women is introduced

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Akaka gets no respect

The decision of U.S. Senate Democrats to dump Hawai‘i’s 86-year-old Sen. Daniel Akaka as veterans affairs chairman and move him to the less prestigious Indian Affairs Committee is a political surprise.

Senators seldom make such moves for age alone, unless there is a feeling that the member isn’t up to the job anymore. That’s how senior Hawai‘i Sen. Daniel Inouye rose to appropriations chairman over the late Sen. Robert Byrd.

A hint that Akaka is starting to slip is a heck of a message to send Hawai‘i voters as he gears up for a potentially tough re-election campaign against former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, with Democrats fighting an uphill battle to hold their two-vote Senate majority….

If the Democrats want to move past Akaka, their best bet would be to persuade him to step down sometime this year and let Abercrombie appoint a replacement who could run against Lingle as an incumbent.

But Akaka has resisted such pushes for 20 years, and the fight among Democratic factions over who gets the appointment could become ugly.

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Abercrombie is all foot-in-mouth on Obama birth

The non-issue had pretty much settled down with most reasonable Americans accepting that Obama is a U.S. citizen born in Hawai‘i — until Abercrombie announced with much fanfare that he’d use his new powers as governor to prove once and for all that Obama was born here.

That got the crazies stirred up anew, and when Abercrombie abandoned his effort after finding there was nothing more he could do to certify Obama’s birth beyond what the state had already done, it only amplified the cries of conspiracy….

So now, because of Abercrombie, an issue that was all but dead will likely dog Obama into the 2012 election. Nice going, bearded one….

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OIP opinion appears to require disclosure of nominee names after selection is made

Governor Abercrombie will likely have to eventually disclose the names of nominees forwarded by the Judicial Selection Commission for the current Supreme Court vacancy, judging from a 2003 opinion offered by the Office of Information Practices.

ILind: Rodrigues case an example of problems with secrecy of the judicial selection process

SA: Not broadly televising vote for House speaker was insult to local citizen participation

HFP: House GOP Caucus introducing transparency bills

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Medicare Cuts strangle Local Home Health Provider

A longtime Hawaii home health care provider has cut staff by half and closed a Maui division due to Medicare cuts and internal accounting problems that led to delayed insurance reimbursements.

Carolyn Frutoz-de Harne, owner of Hawaii Healthcare Professionals Inc., said she downsized over the past six months to 55 employees from 105 in mid-2010 after depleting her reserves to pay workers when private insurance and Medicare reimbursements were delayed.

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It begins: Abercrombie unleashing 82 felons on Hawaii

The Abercrombie administration is starting to make good on the governor's promise to bring all state prison inmates incarcerated on the mainland back to Hawaii.

The state returned 243 inmates from Arizona last week and sent back just 96 to take their place.

Of the 243 returning inmates, 54 are getting paroled, 28 are about to complete their prison terms and three are back for court hearings.

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Our Glorious State prisons: State Pays $149,500 Over Injured Inmate

Tenney was being transported along with six other inmates from Circuit Court to Oahu Community Correctional Center on Jan. 30, 2007 when the van rear-ended a Mercedes that had slowed for a yellow light. Tenney sustained severe back and neck injuries which eventually led to spinal surgery. Attorneys Myles Breiner and Maria Erler sued the state because they said the prisoners were being transported with ankle and hand shackles and had no way to use the seat belts, which were tied to windows of the van. As a result, Tenney was thrown back and forth against the seats, which had no headrests to prevent whiplash.

The attorneys also said the two guards escorting the inmates told the arriving ambulance crew that the inmates would receive medical attention at OCCC. Although police reports said none of the inmates complained about injuries at the scene, Tenney complained about neck pain upon returning to the facility. Despite almost daily complaints, the attorney said Tenney was notexamined for five months, at which point his injury was so severe he required surgery, at the state's expense.

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Mainland dopers thrilled at Hawaii’s possibilities

A bill that would set up state-licenced compassion centers was also introduced by Sen. J. Kalani English. While the licensing fees and taxes for these businesses would be large, this proposal would be the first of its kind to allow dispensaries to provide marijuana to non-Hawaii residents who are legal medical marijuana patients in their home states.

Of course, the police are fighting this tooth and nail, and are trotting out the same old predictable arguments. According to Sen. Espero, Hawaii lawmakers aren’t buying it anymore. And neither is the new governor.

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Hawaii Governor Appoints Out Lesbian To State's Supreme Court Governor Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii has appointed Judge Sabrina McKenna, an out lesbian, to the state’s Supreme Court.

In a perfect world, this wouldn't be a big deal, but our world ain't perfect yet and IT IS a big deal!

Abercrombie said McKenna's appointment had everything to do with her intelligence, temperament and legal knowledge and nothing to do with her sexuality.

McKenna on the other hand believes it's important to talk about her sexuality….

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Big Island Lesbian gets 10 years for molesting girls

A 24-year-old Naalehu woman who taught hip-hop dance was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison for sexually molesting three teenage girls.

In exchange for Paglinawan's plea, a charge of first-degree sex assault, which- carries a possible 20-year sentence, was dropped.

The victims, two of them sisters, were students in a hip-hop dance class Paglinawan taught. All three were under the age of 14. According to court documents, the offenses occurred between 2004 and 2007.

"The first victim said the defendant gave her alcohol and drugs. The second victim says that she was given alcohol and was made to run away with her," she said. "... All three victims were under the age of 14 when the defendant began committing crimes on each of them."

During sentencing, Hara cited aggravating factors, including Paglinawan violating a restraining order taken out by a girl's parents, and the victims' ages.
"It seemed like the victims were getting younger and younger," he said.

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Whiner whines about being called on it

A Naalehu man has filed an ethics complaint against Hilo Councilman Donald Ikeda.

Jerry Warren, a self-described political gadfly, said Ikeda deliberately mangled his last name, referring to him as "Jerry Whiner" during a Jan. 3 County Council committee meeting.

In a complaint filed Monday, Warren, 63, said he had left the meeting and wasn't aware of the alleged name-calling until he watched a televised replay of the meeting two weeks later.

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