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Monday, March 27, 2023
March 27, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:13 PM :: 2816 Views

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No Time for Senate: Dela Cruz too busy working at home with DBEDT’s Wicker

CB: … On Tuesday, the day we published a story about Senate bullies creating chaos at the State Capitol, Dela Cruz — one of the aforementioned bullies — called us to complain that he had been unfairly maligned in the piece. It laid out how his Senate colleagues were concerned he and Sen. Michelle Kidani were strong-arming some senators to backpedal on approval of one of the governor’s nominees.

“I’m hardly even at the Legislature these days,” Dela Cruz said at one point in a lengthy phone conversation. “I’ve been staying home a lot to take care of my dog.”

“Well, hey,” we said, “we just happen to be at Civil Beat’s pop-up newsroom at the library in Wahiawa today. You should come by.”

Twenty minutes later, guess who showed up? He spent the next two hours insisting we had him all wrong and that he did not try to coerce anyone. In fact, he contends, he is just one guy in a big system and he has no influence over anyone. He’s just trying to do the best he can for his district.

We’d give you more specifics, but he insisted “this whole thing is off the record” so many times it’s hard to keep straight what is ethically useable and what isn’t.

Suffice it to say Dela Cruz was his most charming self at our pop-up. He even shook a couple of constituents’ hands. He showed us pictures of the aging French bulldog he rescued and now needs to spend quality time with.

He invited us over to his house — near the library — so we could see his tea-bagging operation, a small business he owns with his longtime colleague Dane Wicker who was recently confirmed as the new deputy director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, an arrangement that has raised eyebrows for sure. He promised to help several Civil Beat reporters with future stories, including walking us through the state budget, which he likes to detail out on a giant whiteboard.

Soon to come: watch for a short video of Dela Cruz talking about what he loves most about Wahiawa. It will be on our pop-up newsroom landing page soon ….

read … Civil Beat Gets A Visit From A VIP

Government transparency bills go before Hawaii governor

SA: … Bills aiming for greater transparency from lawmakers and state boards have gone to Gov. Josh Green.

Four bills are on Green’s desk, and 11 are still alive and have crossed over to their opposite chamber….

>> House Bill 99 Opens in a new tab limits to $100 the total amount of cash a candidate, a candidate committee or a noncandidate committee may accept from a single person during an election period. The measure is part of the state’s Campaign Spending Commission bill package.

>> The latest version of HB 137 Opens in a new tab requires the statement of expenditures filed by lobbyists and others engaged in lobbying activities to include certain information on the identity of the legislative or administrative action that was commented on, supported by or opposed by the person filing the statement during the statement period. It would go into effect Jan. 1, 2025. The measure is part of the state Ethics Commission bill package….

>> HB 142 Opens in a new tab prevents lobbyists from giving gifts to legislators that are prohibited under state ethics law. The measure is part of the state Ethics Commission bill package….

>> HB 93 requires the state Campaign Spending Commission to publish on its website the names of candidates and people who qualify as noncandidate committees who fail to file an organizational report or a corrected organizational report with the commission. The measure is part of the Campaign Spending Commission bill package.

House Bills that crossed over to the Senate:

>> HB 89 Opens in a new tab prohibits elected officials from soliciting and accepting campaign contributions during any regular session or special session of the Legislature, including any extension of any regular session or special session and any legislative recess day, holiday or weekend.

>> HB 726 Opens in a new tab specifically prohibits state and county elected officials from soliciting and accepting campaign contributions during any regular session or special session of the state Legislature, including any extension of any regular session or special session and any legislative recess days, holidays or weekends.

>> The latest version of HB 711 Opens in a new tab establishes the offense of fraud as a Class B felony. The bill also disqualifies a person charged with fraud from receiving public financing for elections for 10 years.

>> The latest version of HB 717 Opens in a new tab prohibits state employees from hiring or promoting relatives and household members, and from making or participating in certain other employment-­related decisions. It would also prohibit awarding a contract to or taking official action on a contract with a business if the employee’s relative or household member is an executive officer or holds a substantial ownership interest in that business. It would go into effect July 1.

>> The latest version of HB 723 Opens in a new tab would apply Hawaii’s Sunshine Law to legislatively appointed bodies, including task forces, working groups, commissions, special committees and select committees.

>> HB 724 Opens in a new tab amends the prohibition against contributions to a candidate committee or noncandidate committee by state and county contractors to include state and county grantees and the owners, officers and immediate family members of a state or county contractor or state or county grantee.

>> The latest version of HB 141 Opens in a new tab requires every state legislator to include within the legislator’s disclosure of financial interests the names of lobbyists with whom the legislator has a relationship.

>> The latest version of HB 463 Opens in a new tab lowers to $100 the threshold for disclosure of campaign expenditures for noncandidate committees.

>> The latest version of HB 719 Opens in a new tab imposes a cap on charges for the reproduction of certain government records; waives reproduction costs charged for the first 100 pages if the disclosure serves the public interest; waives the cost of duplication of government records provided to requesters in an electronic format; imposes a cap on charges for searching for, reviewing and segregating rec­ords; and provides for a waiver of fees when the public interest is served by a record’s disclosure. The bill also appropriates funds for positions in the state Office of Information Practices.

>> The latest version of HB 712 Opens in a new tab encourages boards to maintain recordings of meetings on their websites even if written minutes of the meeting have been posted. It requires boards to provide the state archives with a copy of any recordings before removing them from their websites. It also requires the written minutes of board meetings to include a link to the electronic audio or video recording, if available online. It would go into effect Oct. 1.

read … Government transparency bills go before Hawaii governor

Next Boondoggle: Corps of Engineers files Secret Environmental Study for Ala Wai project

SA: … The plan for a multimillion-dollar flood control project that aims to prevent a disaster in Waikiki and the Ala Wai watershed now will include a more comprehensive environmental study, according to a notice filed by the Army Corps of Engineers.

That’s good news for those who have urged the federal agency to take a closer look at the environmental impacts of the project.

The problem, according to community members, is that project officials didn’t notify the dozens of people who have been participating in the public planning process and who signed up for an email list to hear about the latest developments. The action also wasn’t described on the project’s website.

Instead, the agency on Feb. 22 put a notice only in the Federal Register, the voluminous daily bulletin of U.S. administrative and executive rules, regulations, orders and notices….

(REALLY OBVIOUS QUESTION: When has there ever been a flood in Ala Wai Canal?)

read … Miscommunication creates confusion as scrutiny is raised for Ala Wai project

The New Tourism: Average rate for Wailea hotels tops $1,000 again

MN: … with TVRs gutted, hotels have boosted room rates even though occupancy lags.  The ‘new tourism’ was just a trick to end decades of stagnation in tourism revenues on an inflation-adjusted basis.  …. but … when the recent spike in inflation is factored in, these $1,000 room rates don’t represent actual revenue growth ….

read … Average rate for Wailea hotels tops $1,000 again; occupancy still trails other counties 

To Keep Criminals on the Streets, Legislators Still Refusing to Fund New Hilo and Kona Jails

CB: …Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney Kelden Waltjen is frustrated that judges on the Big Island are releasing people who were arrested for multiple felonies over the objections of his deputies. The judges cite poor conditions at the overcrowded Hilo jail as a reason for the releases.

“This is unacceptable,” Waltjen told the House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee at a recent hearing. “Jeopardizing public safety concerns simply on account of overcrowding and correctional facility conditions is misplaced and misguided.”

Waltjen is calling for more state and federal support for construction of new jail facilities in Hilo and Kona…

The state Department of Public Safety has spent millions of dollars planning a new jail to replace the aging Oahu Community Correctional Center, but Waltjen said the department’s own data shows HCCC has consistently been the state’s most overcrowded facility for years….

n her most recent report to the commission dated March 16, Johnson said the three secured areas of the jail in Hilo were holding 245 prisoners but had an operational capacity of only 126. That meant the jail was at 194% occupancy….

Kim said there is a “severe need” for a new jail in West Hawaii County to take some of the population pressure off of HCCC, and to reduce the travel time required to shuttle prisoners from the Hilo jail to court in Kona and back.

Public Safety officials are seeking $5 million to begin planning that facility, and it is still unclear if lawmakers will provide that funding.

“For God’s sake, I would say that’s at least 10 years overdue. We need the help,” Kim said.

Apart from a new jail, Kim points out that something must be done with mentally ill people and homeless people with drug problems “who are coming into the facility time and time again.” He said mental health services on the Big Island are also inadequate….

read … Judge: ‘Seeing Is Believing’ When It Comes To ‘Atrocious’ Conditions At The Hilo Jail

Top officials don’t need big pay raise

SA Editorial: … For the moment, both county and state coffers are full. But this temporary wealth is just that — temporary — and decisions that permanently commit the city or state to increased spending on a year-after-year basis must be carefully scrutinized.

A whopping 60% increase in the Honolulu City Council chair’s salary, and huge increases in pay for the mayor and City Council members, aren’t justified under this reasoning — not when uncertainty prevails over government’s ability to fill long-term needs across Oahu….

read … Top officials don’t need big pay raise

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