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Friday, April 10, 2009
April 10, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:35 AM :: 8894 Views

Advertiser: Hawaii civil unions bill, hike in sales tax unlikely to pass (Tort Reform also dead)

State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said a civil-unions bill will probably not advance this session after a procedural deadline passed yesterday.

In the House, lawmakers did not move a Senate bill that would have increased the general-excise tax to help fund public education, provide tax breaks for low- and middle-income residents, and help close the state's budget deficit. Although a GET increase could be added to other tax bills during conference committee negotiations, state House Speaker Calvin Say, D-20th (St. Louis Heights, Palolo Valley, Wilhelmina Rise), said yesterday there is little enthusiasm because the tax is so broad and regressive.

Other House bills that failed to advance in the Senate include:


  • A bill that would have established a task force to recommend additional caps on noneconomic damages in medical-malpractice lawsuits against doctors in five specialties.
  • A bill that would have given counties the option to use photo red-light detection systems to catch speeding motorists.
  • A bill that would have helped the homeless who have moved here from other states return to the Mainland.

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    SB: Sales tax proposal a way for legislators to pass the buck  (No GE increase, but .....)

    For years, Hawaii's county governments sought authorization to raise revenue through means other than property taxes and for years, the state Legislature flatly turned them down.

    This time, however, lawmakers have surprisingly decided to move ahead a bill that would give counties permission to levy a retail sales tax.

    The sudden change of heart comes with a catch. Lawmakers, most prominently the Senate money committee led by Donna Kim, want to pinch the counties' shares of the hotel room tax to help balance the state's budget. In exchange, legislators would deign to loosen, to a small degree, their rigid hold on taxing power.

    Thanks, but no thanks, said the Hawaii Council of Mayors, who see through the legislative largesse. The mayors aren't so politically naive that they don't recognize that underlying the bill's seemingly high-minded language about "innovative approaches to local problems" and "self-sufficiency" is merely legislative buck-passing on raising taxes.

    The measure generously offers the counties — which do not have agencies able to collect sales taxes — the help of the state Department of Taxation to do the work for them. This also comes with a catch: a 5 percent skim off the top of revenues, ostensibly to cover the department's costs.

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    Business leaders oppose raising excise tax, check card, bankruptcy jobs rules

    The coalition, which met with legislators prior to holding a press conference, said they oppose HB 952 and SB 1621, which have been termed the "card check bills" because they eliminate the need for secret ballot election for employees that are deciding whether or not to unionize.

    The business coalition also spoke out against HB 332, which has been termed the "guaranteed bankruptcy" measure by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii. The bill requires a successor employer, which has just purchased or merged with an existing company of more than 100 employees, to retain the non-supervisory work force under most conditions.

    However, HB 332 provides needed job protection, said Guy Fujimura, secretary/treasurer of the ILWU Local 142.  Only about a dozen workers who were employed at the Naniloa Hotel in Hilo kept their jobs after the lease changed, Fujimura said.  (ILWU still sick over being busted)

    RELATED: Kaua‘i businesses say no to ‘card check’

    Reps. Mina Morita, Jimmy Tokioka and Roland Sagum were each co-sponsors of HB 952, with Sagum later voting “yes with reservations” and Tokioka eventually voting no as the amended bill passed out of the House last month.
    Sen. Gary Hooser was among those to vote for Senate Bill  1621, a related but separate measure. The Senate has scheduled a full vote on HB 952 for Tuesday.

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    (Trial lawyer) Legislators Kill Bills Requested By Law Enforcement (Leg refuses to overturn Supreme Court's 1998 Con-Con vote counting trick)

    Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle's said state lawmakers only held a single hearing on the law enforcement coalitions annual wish list. At the top of wish list was overturning Hawaii Supreme Court decisions that, among other things, allow a person to escape a DUI checkpoint without being pulled over and prevent police from approaching and talking to drug suspects without a warrant.  The other coalition requests that died were to make it so blank votes on a constitutional amendment did not affect the outcome and being able to charge more felonies without a grand jury or preliminary hearing.

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    Hawaii unemployment fund in good shape despite high demand

    Two years ago, when Hawai'i still boasted one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, concerns were raised that the unemployment insurance fund had reached excessive levels, at the expense of local businesses.

    In response, the Legislature passed Act 110, which lowered the taxable wage base used to calculate what employers pay for unemployment insurance from the first $35,000 of an employee's gross pay to $13,000 and increased maximum weekly unemployment benefits for employees from 70 percent to 75 percent of the worker's average weekly wage.

    At the time, the law was expected to save employers $151 million.

    In May 2007, DLIR estimated that the fund would stand at more than $400 million in 2010 "barring any severe and unexpected economic downturn." 

    "The state was so diligent in maintaining the fund, and the fund was so huge, that even though Act 110 correlated with an economic downturn, we're still in good shape," Markham said. "We were lucky that we had those reserves."

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    Advertiser: Ceded-lands pact can help defuse conflict

    Those conditions make passage of the latest version of Senate Bill 1677 a critical move, and one that the state House needs to make by a key legislative deadline Tuesday. Then the bill moves to conference committee, where the final measure will be hammered out.

    The preferable version of SB 1677 would have required a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to stop a land sale, instead of the current language that calls for such a supermajority to pre-approve a land sale. (Wow!) This means that, should a ceded-lands transfer ever become a crucial need for some unforeseen purpose, the transaction would have to be held up for a procedural vote. In any real emergency, delay is a problem.

    But on balance, this distinction seems less important than achieving a key goal: putting an end to a legal battle that's already taken too much time and money.

    RELATED: Hawaiian Affairs Committee discusses Supreme Court ruling

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    Midweek's Bob Jones blasts HRA

    On the same subject, whining, no media I've seen covered that recent meeting of the 42-rump-member Hawaii Republican Assembly at MacMouse headquarters on South Street. Good. The cheerleaders seem to be people who regularly run for office but never get elected. Among them: Mike Palcic, his wife Julia Allen, and Jimmy Kuroiwa. They dislike our taxes and it seems they're not happy with much of the State Republican Party, either. They are part of this coming week's so-called Tax Tea Party, a play on the Boston Tea Party. But Hawaii's not in a revolution mood. It's in an “oh, m'god, tourism's way down” mood.

    Here's the fact. There's really no engaged Republican Party in Hawaii. We have eight in the Legislature. Just two in the Senate, which has put Fred Hemmings on eight committees and Sam Slom on six committees, and means neither can reasonably read and digest and make great decisions on all the bills in all those committees.

    That's not good and I'm no fan of one-party legislatures — something that seems to happen only here and in Rhode Island.

    But something's very systemically wrong with the Hawaii Republican Party. I mean if Democrat Brickwood Galuteria can win a senatorial district election over an incumbent — well, it's as if even GOP voters aren't voting GOP.

    I do know that nobody's going to pay any attention to that Hawaii Republican Assembly.

    RELATED: Analysis: GOP stresses opposition to tax hikes (Hawaii Tea Party April 15)

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    Maui: Nonprofits ask to keep pieces of pie

    WAILUKU - Advocates for local nonprofits came to the Maui County Council public budget hearing Wednesday night, and were coordinated both en masse with carefully prepared messages and as individuals with heartfelt pleas.

    The annual requests to council members to support funding for nonprofit grants has become a familiar scene over the years come budget time, with advocates for various programs often packing the chambers. More than 40 people testified Wednesday.

    This year is different, nonprofit advocates said. They are fighting for staff and even the continued existence of some social-safety-net, arts and environmental programs.

    (The more government gives the less private citizens and businesses give.  Thus this annual display shapes the non-profit sector in favor of those supported by government.  How may Democrats-in-waiting are given sinecures at these non-profits?)

    read more


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