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Thursday, April 25, 2024
April 25, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:31 PM :: 2600 Views

Budget Emerges from Conference Committee

Let’s end embarrassing tax on medical services

Maui budget full of tax hikes

Maui Property Tax Resolution Full of Blank Numbers

US Space Force Plans 'Space Surveillance' Telescopes for Haleakala

Rolling Blackouts end for Big Island as oil-fired plants come online

‘Scene of the Crime’ -- Alivado, Mitsunaga Concocted False Testimony at Home of Police Commission Chair

HNN: … The defense pointed out that Alivado was afraid of the government and would do anything to protect himself and his family. Alivado admitted he lied in multiple court proceedings, under oath in some cases and as recently as a few weeks ago when the government investigated new allegations of witness tampering and obstruction by one of the defendants….

Alivado also admitted that he was fearful after he recently saw his daughter’s name on the government’s witness list. Shannon Alivado was chair of the Honolulu Police Commission and part of the management team at a property where the alleged witness tampering happened.

According to federal prosecutors, another employee of the politically connected firm reached out to Alivado and met him at his daughter’s property at the direction of defendant Dennis Mitsunaga.

Mitsunaga and Alivado have been friends for decades….

CB: “Alivado, who took the stand after Kameoka, told jurors when she passed him his grand jury transcripts on April 2 he felt that something illegal had occurred.  When he told investigators about what had happened, he said he and Kameoka had met at Zippy’s because he didn’t want his (DAUGHTER’s) Waimanalo farm “to be the scene of the crime committed.”   Alivado also said Tanaka coached him about his testimony before the civil trial and grand jury hearing.   Before the civil trial, Tanaka asked him to “respond to questions for the benefit of Mitsunaga & Associates,” he said….

read … Defense paints key witness in Kaneshiro bribery trial as a liar (hawaiinewsnow.com)

HB724: There's Still Time For Lawmakers To Fix This Problem With Contractor Campaign Donations

CB: … It’s not too late for lawmakers to close that loophole in campaign finance law that lets people with big government contracts give big donations to the politicians who are giving them those big government contracts. A Civil Beat-New York Times investigative report showed that amounted to tens of millions of dollars over the last 15 years or so.

But they need to hurry.

Even though lawmakers have already killed bills introduced this session to fix the problem, it turns out a similar bill left over from last year is still alive this session, buried in the black hole that is a never-ending yet inactive conference committee. House Bill 724 would prohibit the owners, officers and immediate family members of state and county contractors from making donations, pretty much the same thing that this year’s bills would have done.

Amazingly, given the molasses pace of reform at the Hawaii Legislature, HB 724 made it all the way to conference committee (in 2023), where — as happens all too often — it was smothered to death with no explanation, and no fingerprints, of course (on March 20 and 22, 2024) ….

HB724: Text, Status

read … The Sunshine Blog: There's Still Time For Lawmakers To Fix This Problem With Contractor Campaign Donations

State Charges Dentist $70K/yr to serve poor children

KITV: … Dr. Jason Ching pays about $70,000 a year in general excise taxes to care for underserved patients on government health plans that many other doctors won't take.

"It's just another contributing factor that on the financial side, like, just can't stay in business to be honest," he said.

Ching runs Oahu Pediatric Dentistry, a dental practice established by his father 50 years ago.

On top of the rising costs of medicine, providers said the general excise tax is killing their businesses and making it harder for patients to get care. Doctors currently aren't allowed to charge GE taxes to patients on government insurance plans….

read … Doctors urge lawmakers to get rid of general excise tax on health care

SB2919: Short Term Rental Bill designed to Overcome Court Ruling

CN: … SB2919 SD2 HD2 CD1 also responds to a December court ruling that used a 1957 state zoning law to block a 2022 Oahu ordinance cracking down on vacation rentals in favor of an alliance of short-term rental owners and managers.

U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson had ruled that the zoning law — enacted two years before Hawaii became a state — restricts counties from passing any zoning ordinances that conflict with prior usages.

“This measure empowers the counties to make decisions that they feel are necessary and in the best interest of their own communities in the way each island community sees fit, without a 50-year-old law being co-opted to hamper their efforts,” state Senator Jarrett Keohokalole, a Kaneohe Democrat and one of the authors of the bill, said Wednesday….

SA: Key committee passes Hawaii vacation rentals bill

FLASHBACK: Existing short-term Hawaii rentals may remain in operation, judge rules

SB2919 SD2 HD2 CD1: Text, Status

read … Hawaii governor pledges to sign vacation rental regulation bill

Down to the Wire for Lahaina Fire Relief Fund

IM: … The Legislature is proposing to create a wildfire relief fund. SB3344 SD2 HD2 is in conference committee. The House appointed conference committee members yesterday. No conference committee hearing has been scheduled. The Final Decking for fiscal bills is tomorrow.

The Legislature is proposing to require that electric utilities should develop, implement, and administer wildfire protection plans through a public process and that the public utilities commission should review and approve such plans. SB2922 SD2 HD3 proposed CD1 would also authorize the Public Utilities Commission to approve funds raised through securitization.

The counties would be able to regulate short-term rentals with the passage of SB2919 SD2 HD2 CD1. A conference committee passed the bill yesterday….

read … Fire Related Bills Advancing At State Legislature | Ililani Media

Budget: State Has Difficulty finding ways to waste money

CB: … the proposed new budget earmarks a hefty $4.5 billion for construction projects next year, including $1.3 billion in federal funds for highways, airports, school construction and other projects.

Gov. Josh Green said in a written statement Wednesday that “our state’s financial picture has remained solid in spite of the tragic wildfires and the lingering effects and costs of the pandemic, so we are able to continue to take on Hawaii’s greatest challenges like housing and homelessness, while continuing to provide access to core services, without tapping into emergency reserves.”

Those cheery remarks are a happy turnabout from an alarming budget bulletin Dela Cruz issued in February calling on state departments to prepare for major potential budget cuts of 10% to 15%. Dela Cruz cited escalations in the cost of the response to the Maui fire as the cause of the budget troubles.

Not everyone agreed. House Finance Committee Chair Kyle Yamashita told reporters just a few weeks later that the state had enough money to cope, and would not even need to tap into its $1.5 billion “rainy day fund” to balance the budget. “So, we will be fine,” he said.

It helped that the state ended the last fiscal year on June 30, 2023, with an enormous budget surplus of more than $2.17 billion, which softened the fiscal shock from the disaster. The administration projected last fall that surplus would shrink to just $607 million by next June 30 as the state absorbs the cost of the Lahaina recovery…

… Another sign that the state is not quite in dire financial straits can be found in the construction budget. Lawmakers plan to pay cash for more than $140 million of the state construction projects included in the budget, including work on schools, hospitals and other facilities.

That is notable because the state traditionally finances construction with borrowed money, and saves its cash to pay for government operations. Using such a large lump of cash for construction projects implies the state has some money to spare.

The budget document itself does not include most of the state funding needed for the near term response to the Lahaina wildfire that killed at least 101 people and destroyed many homes and businesses.

Funding for the Lahaina recovery effort is contained in Senate Bill 582 and Senate Bill 3068, which lawmakers plan to consider on Thursday. Those bills together appropriate more than $844 million to respond to the fire, money that is being handled separately from the main budget….

SA: Compromise committee draft for state budget bill reached

read … It Looked Bad In The Beginning, But Maui Did Not Suck Up All The Money In The State Budget

How will displaced Lahaina Residents Vote?

CB: … The biggest challenge facing Maui County elections staff is collecting updated mailing addresses for displaced Lahaina voters. The state’s mail-in ballots, unlike other forms of mail, cannot be forwarded through the U.S. Postal Service — and they’re expected to start going out in late July.

One way voters can update their mailing address is online at MauiCountyVotes.com or through the state Office of Elections. Voters who’ve changed their address on their driver’s license or state ID card will automatically have their address updated for voter registration purposes.

The county’s letter-writing campaign to Lahaina burn zone residents late last year was largely ineffective. It’s had better success reaching voters by phone. Although some voters have disconnected or changed their phone number in the fire’s chaotic aftermath, Lutey said the county has reached the majority of the 7,000 Lahaina voters for whom it has a phone number on file.

(TRANSLATION: They could only reach the residents who are still here.)

“I understand a number of people have moved out of state,” Lutey said. “And so one of the things that I think we really need to look at is how do we reach people that might be living in Vegas or LA or Oregon or whatever it is.”

… Voters who’ve relocated outside of West Maui since the fire should opt to have their ballots counted for House District 14 only if they intend to return to the greater Lahaina area when it’s safe and feasible to do so, Lutey said.

“At this point we really don’t know how long any of this rebuild will take,” Lutey said. “Clearly it’s not going to be done this year.” …

The county will operate a voter service center at the Lahaina Civic Center Aug. 8-10 for the primary election and Nov. 2, 4 and 5 for the general election. There also will be ballot drop boxes on the island’s west side at the Lahaina Civic Center and the Napili Fire Station….

SA: Off the news: Voter notification cards herald elections | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

read … Will The Maui Fires Help Or Hurt Candidates In This Year's Election? - Honolulu Civil Beat

Retaliation by Mayor?  Ocean Safety chief placed on administrative leave amid investigation

HNN: …  Resolution 50 — which requests language be placed on the Nov. 5 general election ballot — also calls for a “board, creating accountability and oversight similar to that provided by the city’s Fire Commission and Police Commission over the city’s other public safety departments, the Honolulu Fire Department and Honolulu Police Department.”

Conversely, Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s administration — under Resolution 103 —wants to use the mayor’s executive powers to create a full Department of Ocean Safety but is not interested in attaching that department to an oversight commission. Instead, the city wishes to see any potential commission be brought forward separately to voters in November.

Titchen, however, has been critical of the city’s plans.

In an April 14 email to all city and county lifeguards, Titchen informed his division about the options to create a new Ocean Safety department but stated his “strong support” for Tupola’s Resolution 50 “because I believe a chief and commission structure best allows for accountability and transparency.”

“Also, I oppose the instant start-up of a Department of Ocean Safety with an appointed Director, because in my professional opinion, this will look just like a carbon copy of the existing Emergency Serv­ices Department,” Titchen wrote. “And I believe the HESD model with appointed directors is not a good fit for public safety and in my opinion, this model fails to provide consistent quality leadership for vital responders in Our Honolulu.”

He added, “I firmly believe that Resolution 50 enables voters to decide if Ocean Safety should be its own department, and that when they do vote, they will be giving elected officials — such as the Mayor and Council Members — a mandate on how much to prioritize Ocean Safety.

“In a department with an appointed director, that political appointee will serve only for four years, or maybe eight years. In my experience thus far in the city, and in my opinion, these individuals tend to focus first and foremost on serving the interests of the Mayor who appointed her or him, rather than the interests of the Department or service,” he wrote. “There is nothing necessarily wrong or illegal about this set up — the Mayor is elected to set priorities for the City and run an administration. I just don’t happen to think this organizational construct works well for emergency response departments.”

Moreover, Titchen declared, “I will not seek the position of an appointed Director of a Department of Ocean Safety, and I doubt very much that I would be asked.”

“In my expert opinion, I know of only a very few number of individuals on Oahu who would qualify for this position, based on the language of the Mayor’s proposed executive action,” he wrote. “They include a former Ocean Safety Administrator, a former HESD director, myself, and perhaps one or two other retired or former managers.

“I believe the instant establishment of a Department of Ocean Safety with an appointed Director through executive action is a mistake,” he wrote. “I also believe it’s highly political, and I sincerely worry about the reasons for choosing this particular path toward making Ocean Safety a standalone agency with no, or very little, input from lifeguards.”

Titchen’s job suspension sent shock waves through the ranks of Honolulu’s city and county lifeguards — who are currently represented by Bargaining Unit 14, which includes state law enforcement officers.

“I was really saddened,” Ocean Safety Lt. Kawika Eckart told the Star-­Advertiser by phone. “I heard it through a rumor first, yesterday on the beach, and from a pretty legitimate person. I was told (Titchen) came into the captains’ meeting and said ‘I can’t attend the meeting’ and walked out.”

Titchen’s April 14 email might have contributed to the suspension, Eckart added.

“I don’t know of any other reason, because he is going against, what I’m assuming, is what the mayor wants to do and he’s kind of rallying the troops,” he said. “And in the email it described both, right? What if the mayor was to appoint this, and what would happen if we went to vote and how that would come out.”….

KHON:  Said Val Okimoto, Honolulu City Council Public Safety Committee Chair. “I don’t believe this will hinder or impact the creation of a new Ocean Safety Department.”

read … Ocean Safety chief placed on administrative leave amid investigation

Hawaii: State Farm insurance company stops issuing all boater insurance as blowback reactions to DOBOR’s new insurance requirements gain momentum

HON: … If you've got a 26 foot or larger boat in Hawaii's public harbor system, you will be required to get what amounts to $1 million in comprehensive coverage in order to satisfy Ed Underwood's latest assault on the boating community, according to some insurance agents who we've interviewed.

The legal mandate for this rule, HRS § 200-13.5, was snuck through the legislature in 2017, with no public testimony, and has suddenly resurfaced and has been weaponized by the DLNR's DOBOR administrator Ed Underwood….

We were informed by two different State Farm agents, before State Farm shuttered their boating insurance division, that any vessel, regardless of its value, in order to get $100,000 in salvage coverage -- DoBOR's new insurance requirement -- would need to purchase a comprehensive policy in the amount of $1 million. The salvage component of that policy is 10% of the total comprehensive package. There is no such thing as a separate salvage component add-on to liability insurance….

KITV: Boat owners in Hawaii contending with rapidly rising insurance rates

read … Hawaii: State Farm insurance company stops issuing all boater insurance as blowback reactions to DOBOR’s new insurance requirements gain momentum

Head of DLNR defends her leadership amid calls to resign, including from several lawmakers

HNN: … when the water for taro suddenly stopped flowing Tuesday in one West Maui stream, poor enforcement of water rights was blamed. The problem ended up being a blocked pipe, which reopened Wednesday morning…

Signs calling for Chang’s removal were displayed at the Capitol Wednesday. A small group organized by Republican state Sen Kurt Favella brought complaints about everything …

Elle Cochran, State Representative for West Maui, said Chang doesn’t seem to be leading…

Sen. Lorraine Inouye of East Hawaii Island is currently in conflict with Chang…

read … Head of DLNR defends her leadership amid calls to resign, including from several lawmakers

Lahaina Fire News:

Legislative Agenda:

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