Ethics: Charter School Commission Exec Funneled Money to his Pet Nonprofits
Cult? Republican Caucus Pushes Back Against Souza
DLNR Chair Jumps in After Police Face off With Mob ... of Waikoloa Cat Feeders
Two public Maui events this week will honor National Crime Victims’ Rights Week
City Touts Fasi Building Energy Efficiency
Despite hefty opposition, commission approves 64% pay hike for city councilmembers
HNN: … The Honolulu Salary Commission heard passionate opposition Tuesday to raises for city officials and councilmembers, but ultimately voted to approve the pay hikes in a 5-to-1 vote.
Under the plan, city councilmembers would get a 64% raise ― from $68,904 a year to $113,304….
commissioner Coralee Kubo, who served in former Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s cabinet, opposed the package.
“Seventy thousand dollars for a part time job is not a drop in the bucket -- many employees won’t earn that with one job two jobs three jobs,” Kubo argued. “In all good conscious I cannot support this for the workers of Hawaii.”…
“What I am hearing is that council people cannot do their jobs because they are not being paid enough,” Tajiri said, “and I am saying well why did they take the jobs then?”…
the increase will mean a huge increase in potential pensions….
Meanwhile, the mayor and his cabinet members would receive 12.6% raises ― based on what public employees have negotiated over the last few years. The Hawaii Government Employees Association, the union for many white-collar city workers opposed the raise as excessive, while their members consider themselves underpaid.
The raises will take effect automatically on July 1 ― unless they are rejected by the City Council, which could also choose to reject just their own raises….
read … Despite hefty opposition, commission approves 64% pay hike for city councilmembers
Property tax ideas address credits and exemptions
SA: … The Council voted unanimously April 19 to create a Permitted Interaction Group, or PIG, composed of four Council members: Chair Tommy Waters, Vice Chair Esther Kia‘aina, Radiant Cordero and Matt Weyer. The four are expected to sort through a slew of largely Council-initiated real property tax measures that variously offer tax credits, tax exemptions or other means to aid homeowners affected by the approximately 10% or greater increase in real property assessments on Oahu.
A few of those measures — co-introduced by Waters and Cordero, who presides over the Council’s budget committee — include helping low-income kupuna; helping homeowners who were placed into a higher rate-paying real property tax class; and those renting properties long term — for 12 months or more. Other tax measures introduced in 2022 would increase the homeowner’s exemption, revise tax classifications or apply a vacancy tax….
The Council’s stated tax relief measures coincide with Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s one-time $300 tax credit to nearly 152,000 qualifying homeowners, as part of his proposed $3.41 billion operating budget for next fiscal year….
Ivan Kaisan, a former assistant director to the city’s Office of Council Services, offered two points about the local property tax system.
“The property tax system is fundamentally biased against taxpayers,” Kaisan wrote, adding that “the interests of the mayor and council are opposed to the interest of taxpayers.”
Kaisan added, “Taxpayers know that if the mayor and council do nothing, taxpayers would be hit with substantial tax increases. In contrast, the mayor and the council enjoy at least the prospect of windfall revenues to balance the budget.” He said this “windfall affords the mayor and the council to compete over how much to give back to taxpayers in the form of lower tax rates, or higher tax credits and exemptions, all the while taxpayers squirm awaiting the outcome. That is a major reason why property taxes are the most reviled form of tax.”
Kaisan said a “fair tax system” would keep tax bills more or less unchanged unless an “increase was proposed, debated, justified and approved. … Whatever you do this time, please address the issue openly and honestly.”
Natalie Iwasa, a certified public accountant, commented that she was disappointed to see “this resolution wasn’t amended to include real property tax exemptions” other than the ones currently in bill form before the Council….
read … Property tax ideas address credits and exemptions
HB1373: Gut n Replace Bill Gives Millions to Movie Moguls
SA Editorial: … Just one bill affecting incentives for film production in Hawaii remains standing, and it’s chock full of proposed new benefits and other rule changes.
There’s a question mark attached, however: Tax credit rollover provisions in House Bill 1373, along with other elements from loosely related, stalled bills, were inserted into HB 1373 after the committee hearing process ended, and after a deadline for introducing new bills.
This raises a serious issue as to whether costly and important aspects of the “new” HB 1373 should be written into law without having been adequately aired before the public….
Some critics have characterized HB 1373 as a victim of “gut and replace,” a technique for changing the character of legislation late in session to substitute new and unrelated content. This practice has been ruled unconstitutional by Hawaii’s Supreme Court….
HB 1373’s latest iteration raises the total payout cap on tax credits available for film and TV projects from $50 million to $75 million for just one year, 2024, to pay off a backlog of unpaid refunds, and ends rollover credits after 2024. It also creates a $25 million annual tax credit, available through 2032, for expenses related to building media production facilities….
Other, less studied and debated provisions, including the rollover and a multi-year, $75 million tax credit cap, as well as the production facility credits…
Meanwhile: ‘Reeks of organized crime’: ‘Lilo and Stitch’ set fire reopens old industry wounds
read … Reduce scope of film tax credit bill
Hawaii’s Medically Assisted Suicide Program Is Poised To Be Expanded
CB: … The procedure will likely become more accessible after a bill got a boost on Tuesday to bypass the Legislature’s chaotic conference committee stage.
If House Bill 650 is signed into law, the waiting period would immediately shorten from 20 days to five, and could be waived if providers agree that the patient would die before it elapses.
Prescriptions for life-ending medication could be made by advanced practice registered nurses, rather than just physicians. Licensed marriage and family therapists could fill the role of counselor to evaluate a patient’s mental capacity. …
read … Hawaii’s Medically Assisted Suicide Program Is Poised To Be Expanded
Agribusiness agency suffers loss with leader James ‘Jimmy’ Nakatani’s death
SA: … Nakatani was appointed to run ADC in 2012. In 2021 some lawmakers unsuccessfully attempted to abolish the agency after a scathing performance review by the state auditor.
Deficiencies cited in the audit included a lack of statutorily required market research, no meaningful agribusiness plan, informal tenant arrangements, state procurement rule violations, records in disarray and poor board oversight.
“After almost 30 years, we found that ADC has done little — if anything — to facilitate the development of agricultural enterprises,” the audit said.
The state auditor also had been tasked by lawmakers to conduct a separate financial audit of ADC, but the auditor said that wasn’t possible because ADC hadn’t kept financial records since its inception….
read … Agribusiness agency suffers loss with leader James ‘Jimmy’ Nakatani’s death
Big Success: After decades blocking new jail construction, Soft-on-Crime Crowd Gets Some criminals released from HCCC
KHON: … The Hawaii Community Correctional Center is situated in the heart of downtown Hilo and is designed to hold 206 inmates, but is currently over capacity at 295 inmates, making it the most overcrowded jail in the state.
“HCCC has been I think the worst facility I’ve seen,” said Christin Johnson, Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission coordinator.
The Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission coordinator took a tour of HCCC last week and saw the state of the facility firsthand.
“Currently the women are already housed inappropriately, they’re being housed in dry cells meaning no toilets, no sink,” said Johnson. “They’re being housed in areas that might have a sign that says storage on the door so you know that was never meant to be a cell.”
Unlike the Oahu Community Correctional Center, HCCC doesn’t have a mental health module, resulting in off-island transports in some cases.
The Hawaii County prosecutor’s office said, the conditions are so poor, it’s playing a factor in some judges’ decisions.
“Oftentimes judges will release persons who have been charged with criminal offenses, because of concerns and justifications based on the limitations or the over occupancy at HCCC,” said Kelden Waltjen, Hawaii County prosecutor. “That does not promote trust and competence in our criminal justice system.”
Third Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert D.S. Kim said in a statement: “There is a concern about the overcrowded conditions at HCCC. The situation is critical. The conditions are not acceptable and the courts are painfully aware of the need for a comprehensive plan to alleviate the overcrowding, as well as the emergency need to find bed spaces at other facilities in the State. The situation is dire when compounded with the complete lack of mental health diversion for mental health inmates on the Big Island.”
DPS expects construction on a new 48-bed module to be done next year…..
read … Situation is critical: Some inmates released from HCCC due to poor conditions
Mayor: Private businesses who allow guns must display firearm policy signs
HNN: … Starting next week, under a new law, private business owners in Honolulu can download and display signs announcing whether firearms are allowed on their premises.
Officials said “Sensitive Places” posters are available to the public online and at various City facilities.
Businesses and charitable establishments that do not wish to allow firearms on their premises do not need to take any action and are not required to display signs….
read … Mayor: Private businesses who allow guns must display firearm policy signs
Shooting range reopens with limited hours, new rules following lead concerns
HNN: … With the reopening, the city is implementing new rules and safety precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to lead. Eating and drinking is no longer allowed on the firing line.
The city will also monitor the air quality at the range and will conduct weekly cleanings.
Additional handwashing stations and de-lead soap will also be available.
Since the pistol and rifle ranges will only be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and only on the weekends, the city is expecting demand to be high. So most of the reservations will have to be made on line.
Last year, gun enthusiasts made a total of 32,500 trips to the facility….
SA: Oahu’s only public shooting range to reopen
read … Shooting range reopens with limited hours, new rules following lead concerns