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Wednesday, April 3, 2024
April 3, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:02 PM :: 1949 Views

Hawaii 2nd Highest State Tax Burden

Gabbard Claims she Rejected RFK's Vice-Presidency

SB2335: Recreational Marijuana Bill Appears Dead for Session

EXTENDED AGAIN: Applicants Wanted for State Ethics Commission

How HPD and HFP Made Miske Fireworks Investigation Go Away

ILind: … In testimony yesterday, witnesses said almost 700 fraudulent applications permits for consumer purchase of fireworks had been prepared and filed with the Honolulu Fire Department by Island Weddings and Special Events LLC, dba Grand Finale, a Miske-linked company that advertised fireworks for private parties. However, a retired HFD inspector testified that he noticed the all were time stamped at exactly the same time and date. Police were notified, and a detective assigned to the case. However, time passed and it appeared no follow-up occurred. Eventually the fire department staffer was transferred, and the detective retired. At some point, the box of fraudulent permit applications was thrown away. However, the original inspector had retained two permits. One was filed in the name of someone who was already dead at the time the permit application was supposedly signed and filed, others reportedly used names taken from a telephone book ….

read … Judge allows testimony regarding fraud in sale of fireworks by Miske-linked company

After Kaneshiro-Mitsunaga trials, Is Wheat Finished With Hawaii’s Political Criminals?

CB: …Historically, Hawaii has gone through cycles of scandal and cycles of correction. We are currently in an era of accountability with public officials prosecuted and sent to jail….

As the Kaneshiro-Mitsunaga bribery trial is working through its paces and the trial of three ex-Honolulu officials charged with arranging an improper payout as part of the Kealoha conspiracy is set to begin in October, this phase of accountability in Hawaii seems to be approaching an end. ..

there was a chance for redemption with our political officials, but our legislators have decided not to take on serious reforms. 

To further take the air out of the efforts to deter bad behavior by our officials, the pair of ex-lawmakers (Sen. J. Kalani English and Rep. Ty Cullen) convicted for taking bribes from Milton Choy, and other officials involved in some of Hawaiiʻs most notable corruption cases, could soon be released early from prison thanks to changes in federal sentencing guidelines….

Watchdog efforts based in Hawaii, he said, failed at proper oversight because of cultural inclinations not to upset the status quo.

Hawaii’s Democratic leadership hasn’t had the political will to allocate the needed resources to police our bad actors. We’ve had to rely on the federal government, namely Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat from San Diego, to investigate and prosecute those who have abused their public offices and the trust of Hawaii’s citizens. 

So after the federal team led by Wheat finishes with the prosecution of Donna Leong, Roy Amemiya and Max Sword for arranging improper payouts to former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, who can we count on to investigate and prosecute bad actors in Hawaii? 

read … Are We Coming To The End Of A Cycle Of Accountability In Hawaii?

Only 21 Accept Lahaina ‘Ohana Fund’ Settlement Offer

CB: … here’s the latest official count of the growing number of lawsuits filed against Hawaiian Electric Co. et al over the deadly and destructive Aug. 8 Maui wildfires, as told to the Public Utilities Commission by subsidiary Maui Electric Co. last week.

• 131 complaints naming MECO and HECO and most of those cases also name various other defendants including, by MECO’s count: Hawaii Electric Light Co. (128 complaints), Hawaiian Electric Industries (131 complaints), Maui County (110 complaints), State of Hawaii and related entities (109 complaints), Kamehameha Schools (88 complaints), telecommunications companies (79 complaints) and private landowners and developers (7 complaints).

Most of the cases are being heard in the Second Circuit Court on Maui but a few are in Oahu’s First Circuit and a couple are still in federal court.

Hundreds of people are plaintiffs in the 131 cases.

Meanwhile, the last The Blog heard (which was also late last week) only 21 people had filed applications with the state’s One Ohana Fund which will pay $1.5 million to each of the families of people killed in the Lahaina fire if they agree not to pursue damages through a lawsuit....

KITV: MECO now faces 131 legal complaints related to Maui fires

read … The Sunshine Blog Honolulu Civil Beat

Bill aims to exempt private practice physicians from GET

HTH: … A bill resurrected from last year’s legislative session to exempt medical providers from the state’s general excise tax will be heard today by the House Committee on Finance.

Senate Bill 1035 would exempt from the general excise tax medical service providers who receive Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE (the health care program for uniformed service members, retirees and their families) payments….

read … Bill aims to exempt private practice physicians from GET - Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Your Electric Bill Could Be Going Up 5% To Help HECO Pretend to Pay For Wildfire Prevention

CB: … Lahaina wildfire survivors reacted with anger Tuesday to a plan by Hawaiian Electric Co. to impose a fee of up to 5% on Hawaii ratepayers’ bills to raise money to help finance the utility’s wildfire prevention efforts.

HECO’s Chief Operations Officer Jim Alberts told the House Finance Committee the utility needs the fee to create a revenue stream that can be used to borrow money to pay for wildfire-related costs.

The fee would be subject to review and approval by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, and would be capped at no more than 5% of consumers monthly bills, Alberts told lawmakers.

That drew an emotional reply from Lars Johnson, a Lahaina resident who said he lost everything when his home burned in the Aug. 8 wildfire. At least 101 people died in the fire, and Johnson described watching a man burn to death in the blaze.

“I would like to understand the audacity of HECO in thinking about raising rates on electric bills to pay for their sloppiness,” Johnson said…. 

KHON: Electrical rate increase bill for wildfire mitigation advances (khon2.com)

read … Your Electric Bill Could Be Going Up To Help Pay For Wildfire Prevention Measures

UH Regents Are Stepping Up The Search For A New President

CB: … Public forums are set to begin this month with finalists (Greenwood and Dobelle are both still alive) to be named by September and a new leader announced in October. But questions linger over how Mercado Kim and Dela Cruz will ensure the new President backs their Stadium Project ….

read … UH Regents Are Stepping Up The Search For A New President

HB2802: Lock Gay Marriage into State Constitution

SA: … House Bill 2802, which calls for a state constitutional amendment to repeal the Legislature’s authority to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, remains alive as advocates worry about a conservative-­leaning U.S. Supreme Court possibly overturning same-sex marriages across the country.

In addition, a sense of urgency surrounds the bill ahead of November’s rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, who appointed three sitting Supreme Court justices.

HB 2802 crossed over to the Senate, moved out of the Senate Judiciary committee and has been referred to the Senate Ways and Means committee for a hearing on Thursday….

read … LGBTQ+ support push for same-sex marriage bill | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

Hawaii Lawmakers Move to Ban Ammo Sales to those Under 21

G: … Democrats in the Aloha State are in the final stages of passing a new law to raise the minimum age for purchasing ammunition to 21. 

The 51-member Hawaii State House on April Fool's Day approved SB2845 with only five Representatives voting against the measure. The bill had previously passed the 25-member State Senate by a 22-3 vote. For the record, the entire state legislature only contains eight Republicans. 

The proposal, which now goes to conference to work out differences between the versions pass by the respective chambers, not only bumps the age of purchase for ammunition to 21 and requires retailers to check the government-issued ID of purchasers to verify age, but also makes it a crime for adults under 21 to "own, possess, or control" ammunition. This means retailers and distributors could be criminally charged should they make a sale to those under 21. 
 
The bill has a vague exception for those under 21 that are "actively engaged in hunting or target shooting or going to or from the place of hunting or target shooting," but leaves out any mention of possessing ammunition for defensive use or just what qualifies as "actively engaged." 

In some 159 pages of submitted testimony on the bill's latest version, national gun control groups urged swift passage of the measure. At the same time, those opposed included both pro-2A organizations as well as the Hawaii Office of the Public Defender. 
 
"Section 3 creates a new felony offense for anyone under twenty-one years old in possession or control of a firearm," noted the office headed by State Public Defender Jon Ikenaga. "This means that young people are categorically banned from carrying firearms for self-defense purposes. This ban runs afoul with the Supreme Court’s decisions about the Second Amendment making it ripe for a challenge by the defense bar if prosecutors intend on using the statute and gun activists in the civil arena." …

read … Hawaii Lawmakers Move to Ban Ammo Sales to those Under 21

Hawaii Senate bill targets outdated emergency communication control, stirs debate

KITV: … During emergencies communication is key. And a Senate Bill moving through the legislature could change a section of the Hawaii Revised Statutes removing the mayor or governor's ability to cut-off electronic communications during critical circumstances.

The bill will be given a final reading on Thursday.

Some members of the press say a section of the Hawaii revised statutes allowing for the seizing of control of electronic communications in an emergency is out of date.

“There was a concern that radio communications in the 1950s could help triangulate a position of the media or the enemy or some government official. And by severing those radio communications in the 50s, the enemy may not be able to triangulate a location,” said Michael Phillips with the Big Island Press Club….

read … Hawaii Senate bill targets outdated emergency communication control, stirs debate

Queen's completes purchase of Wahiawa General Hospital

KHON: … Queen’s purchased the hospital with known issues, the Wahiawa General Hospital emergency room closed earlier than anticipated in March due to malfunctions with its HVAC system. 

Kalohelani said, “Some of that construction work that Wahiawa had secured we worked with them to make sure that the contracting company, actually we retained them also so none of the work stopped.”

Kalohelani said their priority is to get the ER back up and running sometime in the summer.

She said, “It is the highest priority for myself and the leadership team that supports me.”

Ever since the ER closed, Queen’s West and Pali Momi have been receiving the extra patients. At times, overcapacity at the hospitals has prompted ambulances to divert to other hospitals. 

The Healthcare Association of Hawaii CEO Hilton Raethel said, “It takes a little longer to get to a hospital and it also means that the ambulances are out of commission longer.”

The Queen’s Health System said they have retained about 100 employees from the Wahiawa General Hospital. At this point, plans for the rest of the facility are still being determined. …

read … Queen's completes purchase of Wahiawa General Hospital

Flacking for latest CNHA Scheme, Council Grills Kapiolani Park Preservation Society

HNN: … The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, which is putting on the show, says it wants to help off-set the costs of the free daytime show with a commercial evening show….

Kapiolani Park Preservation Society President Alethea Rebman has told HNN the group could file a lawsuit that claims the city is trying to put a commercial business in the Waikiki Shell….

City Council member Esther Kiaaiana asked Rebman if there are any Native Hawaiian members participating in the Kapiolani Park Preservation Society.

“Yes,” replied Rebman.

“Who are they? Are they here,” asked Kiaaina….

“This is history repeating itself and I’m disappointed because you have no aloha,” said Kiaaina.

(Translation: CNHA wants to make money.)

KITV: Honolulu city council debates CNHA's proposal for nightly luau at Waikiki Shell | Local | kitv.com

read … ‘No aloha’: Council grills head of preservation society opposing hula show venture (hawaiinewsnow.com)

Guilty plea expected in pandemic benefits theft case

SA: … A 54-year-old Kunia woman is expected to plead guilty today to federal charges that she stole $52,270 from a pandemic unemployment insurance program using other people’s identities.

Oseola Vakameilalo, aka “Ose,” was arrested by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Sept. 5 after a federal grand jury returned a 12-count indictment Aug. 24 charging her with taking the money by assuming the identities of people who needed the help.

Vakameilalo originally pleaded not guilty to the accusations. Her trial was set for Jun. 4 before Senior District Judge Susan Oki Mollway. She remains free on an unsecured $25,000 bond….

Background: Kunia Woman Arraigned on Scheme to Defraud Pandemic Unemployment Recipients

read … Guilty plea expected in pandemic benefits theft case

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