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Monday, April 22, 2024
April 22, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:18 PM :: 1395 Views

Crichton: Environmentalism is a religion

Ira Einhorn, Earth Day's Dirty Secret

National Republicans scrutinize Hawaii voting rolls

SB3202: Hawaii Housing On The Verge Of Getting A Lot More Expensive

CB: … With SB 3202 (and its companion, House Bill 1630) our state legislators have tried to eliminate single-family zoning and allow property owners to build at least three homes on each residential lot, under a misguided belief that this will create more affordable housing. 

This is a Trojan horse! It will not produce affordable housing for those who need it most, because there is nothing in the bill to address affordability.

Passage of SB 3202 will immediately increase the development potential — and therefore the price — of all residential property statewide, making housing more expensive….

…investors have no problem buying a property, tearing down the house and building market rate houses in its place, whether that’s one, two or three homes. This drives up the value of the entire neighborhood….

read … Hawaii Housing On The Verge Of Getting A Lot More Expensive

Poll:  Josh Green Approval 61%

CB: … A Morning Consult Pro survey released Monday shows favorable marks for Hawaii Gov. Josh Green. He has an approval rating of 61% among voters, nearly the same percentage that said they liked him during the first quarter of last year. His disapproval rating is up 6 percentage points to 28%.

The numbers place Green, a Democrat elected in 2022, among the Top 10 most popular governors in the nation. Republican Phil Scott of Vermont ranks No. 1….

read … They like Green, they really like Green

Time Running out for 300 bills in Conference Committees

CB: … Currently, nearly 300 bills reside in conference committees, but less than a third of them have received hearings. And 40% have yet to receive conferees from either the House or the Senate, meaning they’re unlikely to make much progress this session.

Conference committees have experienced a sluggish start due to the delay in budget negotiations, particularly affecting bills with financial implications, which are progressing slower than usual.

As of Friday, the conference committee on the state budget convened five times for a total of 25 minutes and made little progress on the 588 pages of disagreements still unresolved. The next conference committee will be on Monday at 2 p.m., which is the legislative deadline for the committee to pass a final budget and submit it for final reading.

Among the critical appropriations awaiting resolution is any significant allocation of funds in the state budget for wildfire recovery, response and prevention. Another appropriation bill that would provide nearly $360 million specifically for Maui wildfire recovery is still under negotiation….

read … Beth Fukumoto: Time Is Running Out For Hawaii Lawmakers To Address Urgent Issues This Year

‘Gut and replace’ bill deals with emergency Maui recovery funding

SA: … State senators are pushing a bill that would fund and govern a Maui wildfire death and injury compensation fund, but the measure runs a risk of violating the Hawaii Constitution.

House Bill 679 would appropriate $65 million to the One Ohana Fund and require an annual report to the Legislature documenting paid claims and administrative costs.

The 22-page bill also would appropriate money for Maui wildfire recovery costs, require an audit of such spending, alter statutory provisions relating to the state’s Major Disaster Fund and have the governor provide notice and a report to the Legislature regarding transfers to the Major Disaster Fund.

Yet for most of the bill’s history since being introduced in January 2023, HB 679 dealt solely with delaying a state rental housing fund deposit that received two public hearings and three readings in the House during 2023. The rental housing fund language in the original three-page bill is no longer in HB 679.

The new version of the bill hasn’t had the constitutionally required three readings each in the Senate and House of Representatives on a similar subject matter.

This predicament puts HB 679, which the Senate voted 23-0 on April 4 to send to the House for possible final approval, in jeopardy of running afoul of a 2021 Hawaii Supreme Court decision against a longtime practice of the Legislature to “gut and replace” bill contents without proper consideration and public input.

The state Department of the Attorney General advised the Senate Ways and Means Committee on March 27 that the committee’s proposed completely different draft of HB 679 would “implicate” the 2021 court ruling….

(TRANSLATION: Senators are playing chicken with Supreme Court.)

read … ‘Gut and replace’ bill deals with emergency Maui recovery funding

SD2922: Plan to Soak Ratepayers to Cover HECO Malfeasance

IM: … The Lahaina fire and the threat of future fires is the focus of Hawai`i Senate bill SB2922 SD2 HD3.

The bill would create a process for electric utilities to develop and submit wildfire protection plans to the Public Utilities Commission.

The bill would also establish a new funding mechanism called securitization, in which the utility would issue bonds that would be financially backed by future payments of customer`s electric bills….

The conference committee members are Representatives Ichiyama, Lowen, Sayama, Tarnas, Yamashita, Kila, Miyake, and Ward, and Senators Keohokalole, Dela Cruz, Rhoads, and Awa.

The initial conference committee has not been scheduled. 

A three-hour information briefing was held last Thursday by the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection (CPN) and the Senate Committee on Public Safety and Intergovernmental and Military Affairs (PSM). (Video)

There are questions raised why the wildfire relief fund for future fire damages should be funded by 470,000 HECO ratepayers as opposed to 750,000 taxpayers….

One Senator suggested that anytime ratepayers cover the cost for a utility capital investment, that the investment should be owned by the ratepayers. Thus, each ratepayer would own part of each utility and perhaps part of the RAIL system.

Two related companion bills -- SB3344 SD2 HD2 and HB2700 HD3 SD2 -- are also both in the conference committee process and both address similar issues as those addressed by SB 2922….

read … Hawai`i Legislators Raise Numerous Issues Regarding Complex Wildfire Mitigation Bill

Never let a Crisis Go To Waste:  Hoteliers, unions exploit fires, unite against rentals

SA: … Almost all STRs in Hawaii are whole-home rentals, and while proponents of illegal STRs claim they generate “jobs,” this ignores the inherent hypocrisy. There’s a big difference between intermittent contract work for an illegal STR turning over weekly and a full-time hotel career (which pays union dues and knows how to vote).

Hawaii’s visitor economy employs nearly 240,000 full-time employees. In 2024, Hawaii’s hotels will contribute more than $1.5 billion in state and county taxes, (and campaign contributions)  pay out a record $3.67 billion in wages, salaries and compensation, (and tens of thousands of votes) and economy-wide spending of our hotel guests is expected to exceed $25 billion. Our collective membership (votes for incumbents and therefore) is part of a community working to better our industry and to take care of our island home….

… Hawaii’s hotel community (votes for incumbents and therefore) cares about Hawaii’s future, and we stand united in our support of enabling effective county regulation of STRs. Our counties need the authority to fully enforce laws against illegal STRs, and, if they so choose, to ban STRs altogether.

House Bill 1838 and Senate Bill 2919 seek to give our counties the tools and legal protections to do just that. These bills will allow STRs to be amortized or phased out and make it clear that a residential use does not include transient accommodations uses (STRs).

With the support of leadership in both chambers, Rep. Luke Evslin and Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole (who will be rewarded) have worked tirelessly alongside their colleagues on these bills this legislative session.

read … Column: Hoteliers, unions unite as unlikely allies against rentals

Lahaina Burn Zone Water System – All Lines Re-pressurized

SA: … Maui County Department of Water Supply Deputy Director Kimo Landgraf announced that the entire water system is pressurized with water flowing through all lines in Lahaina but that not all of the water is drinkable yet, with certain areas remaining under an “Unsafe Water Advisory.”

Landgraf said DWS is working with the state Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency to return the water system back to safe drinking water standards for the areas under the UWA. The agencies are investigating the water system hydraulics and testing water from hydrants, before the results are examined and corrective actions are taken depending on the results. Sampling and corrective actions are expected to be done by the end of June, with drinking water service in Lahaina restored completely by the end of August.

DWS also will be replacing previously registered water meters for free for those rebuilding.

Wastewater service for many properties in fire­-affected areas was cut off due to damaged infrastructure, and according to Maui County Department of Environmental Management Deputy Director Robert Schmidt, findings from an EPA video inspection of sewer lines will guide how the county prioritizes repairing the damage.

Schmidt said the wastewater infrastructure map is updated almost daily with improvements and that each activation is being done “carefully and cautiously.”

“The reason most of the wastewater collection system is down is because of the fragility of our wastewater treatment plant,” Schmidt said. “The fire damage caused a lot of inflow of seawater and groundwater, which has affected the treatment plant process, and we’ve been carefully and cautiously monitoring that as we bring more of the system online. It’s going to be a planned event.”

Hawaiian Electric restored its system in Lahaina and is prepared to restore services back to properties, Molina said. For standing structures that were partially damaged, homeowners should call the Department of Public Works to get an inspection before service can be restored. For homes that were destroyed, DPW is requiring homeowners to obtain a permanent rebuild permit or a temporary structures permit before getting their HECO services….

CB: The Water's In, The Roads Are Pretty Good, The Sewer's Getting There But Lahaina Recovery Is Still A Ways Off

B: Nolte: Wildfire Survivors Still in Tents 8 Months Later in Dem-Run Hawaii

CB: State Reduces Meal Service For Lahaina Fire Survivors Still Living In Costly Hotels

read … Maui to open new wildfire recovery permitting center

Unequal Treatment By Lenders Is Hurting Lahaina Homeowners

CB: … Lahaina residents whose houses were destroyed in the Aug. 8 fire are facing wildly disparate treatment of their insurance settlements, a little-known variable that could help determine which residents have enough money to rebuild.

Some mortgage lenders and servicers, who hold onto the sizable insurance payouts, are paying homeowners no interest at all on that money. In the years it is likely to take before Lahaina can be rebuilt, homeowners could miss out on tens of thousands of dollars.

Other homeowners are getting interest, but well under 1%. Some are getting much more than that, putting them in a far healthier position to deal with financial pressures….

read … Unequal Treatment By Lenders Is Hurting Lahaina Homeowners

UH-Hilo enrollment has consistently declined each year since 2016

HTH: … According to statistics presented by Irwin, 2,781 students enrolled at UH-Hilo in fall 2023, a 6.5% drop from the previous year, and the second year in a row that fall enrollment has decreased.

However, fall enrollment has consistently declined each year since 2016, with 2021 — when the university was recovering from a pandemic-fueled enrollment decrease from the previous year — as the only exception.

Irwin noted the pandemic years actually brought record numbers of first-time freshmen — 462 in 2020, 458 in 2021 — but suspected that those numbers were fuelled by students who would have otherwise gone to school elsewhere but chose to remain closer to home when the pandemic hit.

Seemingly bearing out that hypothesis, 2022 saw first-time freshmen numbers dip, and they continued to decline last year, only reaching 364….Irwin said that, “for what it’s worth,” UH-Hilo is still a bargain compared to other universities, having not raised tuition for years — a semester’s tuition is typically around $7,000, she said. However, a student living on campus still pays about $25,000 a year, to which several council members reacted ruefully.

Puna Councilman Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said he recently spoke with Canadian college students who told him that they pay a similar amount of money for their entire four-year college career….

read … UH-Hilo faces enrollment challenges

Kauai Jail Guards exhausted from working 16- and 24-hour shifts

CB: … The state Correctional System Oversight Commission … flagged an assortment of other problems at the aging Kauai jail, including a kitchen floor that has collapsed in places and jail staffers who appear to be exhausted from working 16- and 24-hour shifts….

The commission report also remarked that “staff burnout was extremely evident during the tour,” with corrections officers sometimes required to work double and triple shifts.

“Pure exhaustion has been more evident in KCCC than in any other facility,” according to the report. “The Commission believes that KCCC staff are doing the best they can, but they have been forced to work in these same conditions for far too long, and relief is needed as soon as possible.”…

The new KCCC report also cites run-down facilities at the jail, parts of which are subject to flooding during heavy rains.

The kitchen floor of the Kauai jail needs immediate attention because it has collapsed in places, with plywood or mats used to cover missing floorboards. The report noted the commission raised the same concerns during a tour a year ago….

During the commission’s visit KCCC also had two or three cells adjoining the jail administration area that were not being used because of flooding, he said.

The department is seeking another $4.5 million to $5 million to hire a consultant (wow!) to help select a site for a new Kauai jail to move the facility to higher ground to deal with the flooding problem, Johnson said….

RELATED: Hospital Crisis: How to Use Union Work Rules for Fun and Profit

read … Corrections Commission 'Taken Aback' By Use Of Restraint Chairs In Kauai Jail

Lahaina Fire News:

Legislative Agenda:

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