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By Andrew Walden @ 5:55 PM :: 1883 Views

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted May 18, 2024

End GE Tax on Medical Services

COVID Fraud?  Why Was The Maui County Finance Director Fired?

CB: … The absence of former finance director Scott Teruya, which has never been explained, was felt during the county's about-to-conclude critical budget deliberations….

Two critical reports came out of the Maui County auditor’s office ahead of Teruya’s removal from office.

One dealt with the Finance Department’s administration of a new county hotel tax that the department failed to collect. Another, the findings of which have not been made public yet, had to do with the county’s expenditures during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The auditor’s office found possible instances of fraud, waste and abuse in emergency procurements made during the Covid-19 pandemic when the county was awarded more than $50 million through federal programs aimed at dealing with the public health emergency….

The auditor’s office submitted its findings to the “appropriate authorities” in January, according to Lance Taguchi, the county auditor. He said he does not know if the findings were related to Teruya’s removal from office in February….

One of Maui County’s contractors during the pandemic was already under investigation by the federal government.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, the county paid nearly $300,000 in federal relief funds to H2O Process Systems, which was owned by Honolulu businessman Milton Choy. Choy was convicted in a bribery scheme involving former Maui officials who took cash and trips from Choy in exchange for providing his company with lucrative wastewater contracts.

At the time, Choy was aiding federal agencies in an ongoing investigation of public corruption in Hawaii….

read … Why Was The Maui County Finance Director Fired?

Column: Proposed income tax cuts a net positive for Hawaii’s economy

SA: … The historic cuts will occur partly through increases in the standard deduction — from $4,400 in the first year to $24,000 by 2031.

For taxpayers who opt for the standard deduction, this effectively means they will pay zero percent tax rate on $24,000 of their income.

The plan also will expand the size of Hawaii’s tax brackets, without changing the rates. This means that all taxpayers will see more of their income taxed at the lower rates that apply to the first few brackets.

Such changes in Hawaii’s income tax program are long overdue. The state’s lowest income tax brackets have not been changed since 2006; and as wages and inflation have increased over time, most people have moved into higher tax brackets, a process known as “bracket creep.”…

read … Column: Proposed income tax cuts a net positive for Hawaii’s economy

Hawaii counties differ in approach to regulating vacation rentals

SA: … While the new law clears up issues of state preemption, counties still must craft their policies. That takes time given the heavy vetting needed to satisfy the public and to avoid other legal or constitutional issues.

So far, Kauai is staying the course. Oahu is evaluating the authority that the law gives to the counties, and according to Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s Communications Director Scott Humber, the “extent to which the city would most effectively implement this authority based on Oahu’s current STR (short-term rental) landscape.”…

Kauai Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami said in an email to the Star-Advertiser that Kauai continues to “stay the course” in efforts to address the illegal transient vacation rental market on Kauai….

He added that such efforts have “reduced illegal vacation rentals on Kauai from 1,500 in 2017, to less than 50, today.”…

(TRANSLATION: Kauai eliminated illegal TVRs and it is still unaffordable.)

Hawaii County Council Chair Heather Kimball said the Council does not plan to use the new state law to amortize vacation rentals; however, like Hawaii island Mayor Mitch Roth, she hopes the change might ease objections to a package of bills previously introduced to close transient accommodation rental (TAR) loopholes.

The path to amend Hawaii island’s transient accommodations rental code shows that nothing is swift when it comes to the complex process of county vacation rental reform. That’s why it could take the Maui County Council some time to evaluate Maui Mayor Richard Bissen’s proposal to phase out 2,200 vacation rentals in West Maui apartment districts by July 1, 2025 — and eventually all 7,000 units in apartment districts across Maui.

Bissen announced the proposed changes May 2, the day before Green signed Act 017 into law. He was flanked by Maui Council member Keani Rawlins-­Fernandez. Also present were members of the advocacy group Lahaina Strong…

The Maui County Council tried to limit short-term vacation rentals to hotel districts in 1989, but Rawlins-­Fernandez said an opinion written by then-­Deputy Corporation Counsel Richard Minatoya exempted units built before March 5, 1991. Bissen’s bill seeks to repeal these units, which are known as the “Minatoya list,” she said.

Bissen expects some legal challenges. His proposal also needs to go before planning commissions on Maui, Lanai and Molokai before going to the full Maui County Council, where Rawlins-­Fernandez said she expects her colleagues to pass it….

Ana Lillis, deputy planning director for Maui County, said Bissen’s proposal goes to the Maui County Planning Commission at 9 a.m. June 25 at the Maui County Council’s chamber, also known as the Kalana o Maui Building, in Wailuku….

Oahu hasn’t announced actions related to the new state bill yet, but changes are anticipated. After all, state Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole (D, Kaneohe- Kailua) introduced SB 2919 in part to clarify a 1957 law enacted before statehood that was successfully used against Honolulu in the case of Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance v. City & County of Honolulu.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson on Dec. 21 granted the Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance a permanent injunction that exempts existing home rental owners from a provision in a 2022 city law that sought to increase the minimum rental period for residential properties on Oahu to 89 days from 30 days.

Humber told the Star-­Advertiser in an email that “to enforce the STR rental period of less than 90 days, the city would need to establish administrative rules to provide a procedure for identifying nonconforming STRs (short-term rentals) that would be subject to this change in STR time/manner restriction.”

He added, “Unlike Maui and its clear Minatoya list of 7,167 distinct nonconforming STRs, Honolulu has approximately 800 STR (short-term rental) NUCs or nonconforming use certificates, which would need to be evaluated for amortization. Outside of the 800 NUCs, Honolulu anticipates there could be landowners claiming they have STRs (short-term rentals) that are nonconforming. Should the City decide to amortize these STRs and the 800 NUCs, it would need to amend the Land Use Ordinance and establish administrative rules.”…

read … Hawaii counties differ in approach to regulating vacation rentals

DoE Enrollment Keeps Shrinking—Down 12,000 Since 2020

CB: … Since 2013, student enrollment in Hawaii’s state-run public schools has steadily declined. Some neighborhoods have aging populations with fewer young children, while other families have enrolled in charter or private schools.

The number of small schools enrolling 250 students or less has grown from 19 to 35 over the past decade. At these schools, annual budgets have come under greater strain, requiring principals to cut teaching positions or eliminate classes like music or physical education. …

In 2020 enrollment was 167,454.  By 2024 enrollment had dropped to 155,222.

read … 'No Easy Answers' For How To Keep Hawaii's Smallest Public Schools Open And Thriving

Watchdogging Wildfire Prevention Policies and Practices

IM: … Even a simple search for the deployment of fire sensing equipment can be convoluted. 

First one must understand the Public Utilities Commission and then one must understand how the Commission maintains its files. Then through relentless searching, one can find the hidden gems….

The Commission maintains a website that has virtually all filings in all proceedings for the past 25+ years, probably tens of millions of pages.

The Commission replaced its old document management system with a new system last year. Many improvements were made. Some mistakes were also made. No longer could one search for “MECO + fire.” The new system interprets the search as “MECO or fire” resulting in a vast listing of irrelevant files, wasting the precious time and resources of those seeking relevant documents.

Nor is there one proceeding or one site that lists all MECO fire related issues. Rather, the documents are spread across multiple files. Compounding the problem is a lack of uniformity among document names….

The Commission sends out an email at the end of each business day. The daily email includes all documents filed since the last email, apart from files that do not appear in the mail.

A HECO letter on fire sensors is one example of a document that was not listed on the daily email providing links to all recently filed documents. The title of the document is “Non Dkt 2024-04-30 HECO Notification Ltr to PUC re MFD Pole Sensor.”  The non-docket with two hyphens is perhaps unique.

read … Watchdogging Wildfire Prevention Policies and Practices | Ililani Media

Kauai apartment residents challenge DHHL as eviction looms

SA: … Residents at an apartment complex in Kapaa, Kauai, are rallying to fight the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ proposed acquisition of their building, which they say would evict about 300 current residents in over 80 units.

(DHHL ‘Affordable’ Housing Scam: Evict one group of affordable tenants to install another.  Big expense to DHHL.  Zero net increase in affordable units.)

In January, DHHL’s request to enter an “Option to Purchase Agreement” to buy the Courtyards at Waipouli apartment complex was approved. Since then, residents claim they’ve received no communication from DHHL about relocation assistance, which is required under the federal Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act.

“The residents are due notice and advisory consultation services from the DHHL, who has been federally funded to acquire this property,” Chris Jungers, co-op housing director at housing advocacy nonprofit Ku Pono ka Leo o ka Aina, or KPKOA, said at a news conference Saturday. “The residents are really concerned. The main thing is that they don’t have comparable housing on the island. They’re all looking at the same apartment that’s for rent on Craigslist and are really worried about their future.”…

Blossom Feiteira, who serves as KPKOA’s advo- cacy director, said the organization has been in communication with about 60 beneficiaries who are opposed to DHHL’s acquisition of the Courtyards at Waipouli. The beneficiaries cite two main reasons: They oppose the eviction of the complex’s current residents, and they want to be awarded a homestead lot rather than a rental apartment unit…. 

KITV: Nearly 300 residents at an apartment complex in Kapa'a are now facing eviction

2023: Tenants facing eviction hope state will convert Kauaʻi’s Waipouli apartments to affordable housing

BREG: COURTYARDS AT WAIPOULI LLC

read … Kauai apartment residents challenge DHHL as eviction looms

Will new legislation increase affordable housing?

KHON: … Attorney Scott Settle joins producer/host Coralie Chun Matayoshi to discuss legislation including short term rentals, residential housing density, and residential housing on commercially zoned property and a Honolulu City Council proposal to significantly tax homeowners who leave their property vacant instead of renting them out.  Other issues include the Department of Hawaiian Homeland “rent-to-own” and “paper leases;” progress on the ALOHA Homes program and Hawaii Public Housing Authority’s effort to replace 1,000 homes and build 10,000 new homes for low and middle income households and navigating Hawaii Coastal Zone Management regulations in rebuilding Lahaina….

read … Will new legislation increase affordable housing | KHON2

Trial delayed again in Makaha crash case, now set for October

KHON: … Among the officers facing charges is Joshua Nahulu, who stands accused of collisions resulting in death or serious bodily injury.

The other officers—Erik Smith, Jake Bartolome, and Robert Lewis—are charged with hindering prosecution and conspiracy….

This marks the fourth delay in the trial proceedings….

May 7 2024: Lifelong Criminal who just received $12.5M settlement from HPD arrested for new gun, drug crimes

read … Trial delayed again in Makaha crash case, now set for October

Lahaina Fire News:

Legislative Agenda:

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