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Wednesday, April 4, 2012
April 4, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:35 PM :: 12289 Views

KOS: The Secret Behind Mitt Romney’s Hawaii Landslide

Faleomavaega: Bahrain’s Best Friend in Congress

Hawaii: Is the Obama Administration Giving States Flexibility When It Rejects Proposals to Reduce Medicaid Costs?

Suicide Activists Line up Hawaii Doctors to Kill Patients

Honolulu Community College Announces Final Three Candidates for Chancellor

The Seven Rules of Bureaucracy

Atheist Advertiser vs. First Amendment: ‘Don't allow anti-civil union actions’

SA: What a shame it would be to diminish that achievement by carving out a broad exemption to at least one of the legal protections the new law provides.

That is what some proposed language in legislation moving through the state Capitol would mean.

To that point, two Senate committees, on health and on judiciary and labor, made the right move in deciding against expanding an exemption for church and religious officials who object to civil unions as a matter of their faith.

Since Act 1's passage, though, there's been a push to expand that exemption significantly.

Wording moving through the House would exempt religious organizations — as well as associations, societies and nonprofit groups affiliated with such organizations — from the requirement "to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges" related to the solemnization of a civil union.

That is simply too wide an escape hatch….

It would be very disappointing if Hawaii's most recent civil rights advance were allowed to disintegrate by carving out a "religious" exception that, in fact, has nothing to do with the practice of religion itself. (Really? Who could possibly be stupid enough to be fooled by this ‘churches are really commercial enterprises’ argument?)

read … Don't allow anti-civil union actions

Democrats, Media Carefully Avoid Any Discussion of Illegality in Thielen Rejection

DoE Pulls Out All the Stops to Save Funding for Colluding School Bus Contractors

Reforming Hawaii's charter schools: 5 myths and 5 realities

Jim Shon: This year there is a major reform bill for Hawaii's charter school system. Some of these "reforms" are based on misinformation or myths. Here are five examples:

  • Myth No. 1. Charters have too much freedom.
  • Myth No. 2. A new "performance contract" will dramatically improve accountability.
  • Myth No. 3. The charter school office is not important and too expensive; we should privatize those functions.
  • Myth No. 4. Our mainland experts know Hawaii well. They say Hawaii charters will have no trouble purchasing services from outside consultants — just like on the mainland. They promote a "model law," with many fine features based on the mainland experience.
  • Myth No. 5. A new commission can handle both accountability and coordinate the privatization of state support jobs.

read … Reforming Hawaii's charter schools: 5 myths and 5 realities

HB2819: Kakaako Development Gut and Replace

KHON: Opponents of Kakaako Makai condos thought the matter had been put to rest in 2006 when private developers backed off plans and the state banned residential development on the makai side of Ala Moana boulevard between Kewalo basin and the foreign trade zone.

Fast forward to 2012 and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs about to take title in June to 10 parcels across 25 acres in a ceded lands revenue bill heading for the governor's signature.

"The ceded lands settlement was an important subject that needed to be resolved on its merits," says Anthony Ching, HCDA director.

But separately another measure SB682 would grant OHA permission for residential development on two of the sites. the house finance committee chairman says he doesn't plan to let the measure advance.

"I think at this point in time it seems somewhat premature in the at the oha trustees have not finished their due diligence on all those properties to ascertain whether or not there may be additional costs for mitigation, they might want to do some other planning," says Rep. Marcus Oshiro, (D) Finance chairman.

So with SB682 likely stuck, senators put its language into another Kakaako-related bill -- HB2819 -- that passed by the judiciary and ways and means committees Tuesday, taking many by surprise.

"I was unaware that it was going to be included in this particular proviso," says Ching.

SA: the Senate's Ways and Means and Judiciary and Labor committees added similar language to a related bill that has passed the House — House Bill 2819 — so if the House bill clears the full Senate, the legislation could still be heard in conference committee before the session ends in May.

read … HCDA Control of Kakaako?

Small Contractors to be Cut Out of $500M in CIP?

HNN: However there is opposition in the construction industry, not to the work but to the process. Lawmakers would like to speed up work but the changes scare contractors. The fear is smaller companies may get pushed out and contractors may cut corners.

SA: House and Senate have competing measures to finance state construction

PBN: Hawaii to spend $602M on airport-related improvements

read … Cronies in Front

State's answer to its budget deficit is crippling small construction companies

HB: A state tax increase imposed last year is killing off construction projects, raising the cost of other projects and encouraging law-breaking, say leaders in the construction industry, who want to make sure the tax increase is not extended after its planned two-year run.

They say the full consequences of the law are not yet evident because many projects now under way were launched quickly last year to avoid the tax law’s start date of July 1.

“The government is effectively killing more activity by having this act in place,” says Greg Thielen, president of Complete Construction Services Corp. and president-elect of the Building Industry Association of Hawaii. “That’s going to more than offset any gain (in tax revenue) they’re going to see coming in.”

“It just makes it that much harder to start projects, to make that decision to go forward,” adds Quentin Machida, VP of Gentry Homes Ltd.

Small general-contracting companies are the hardest-hit victims of the law, which ended some exemptions on the 4 percent General Excise Tax. Now the contractor and all its subcontractors must pay the full tax, creating what is called “pyramiding.” That means more revenue for the state government, but higher costs for construction projects and/or lower revenues and profits for construction companies.

The building industry is the main victim, but not the only one. Transportation companies such as Matson and Hawaiian Airlines, plus businesses in other industries, are also hurt by the pyramiding tax.

For some contractors, it means less business, as customers are unwilling to OK new projects that cost 4 percent more at every level of work. Other companies are gritting their teeth and absorbing the tax increase without passing it on.

read … GET Pyramid

HB466: Workers Comp Reform Proposal Described as Sop to Pill Mills

HNN: The bill placed on the agenda for a Wednesday meeting of the House Ways Committee, HB466, sponsored by House Labor Chairman Karl Rhoads, would bar employers from getting independent medical examinations, or IMEs. Instead, if employer and employee cannot agree on a physician to examine the worker, a state official would choose one from a list.

The most striking opposition to the proposal comes from Chris Brigham, senior contributing editor to the American Medical Association's "Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment." One of the nation's leading experts on the issue, he is a resident of Kailua.

"The bill is ill-conceived and self-serving to certain stakeholders, including treating physicians who provide treatment that is not consistent with practice guidelines and current medical standards," Dr. Brigham says. "Some physicians tragically are using injured workers as pawns for their financial gain."

Dr. Brigham says it is a myth that independent medical examinations are biased or not fact-based, so the bill addresses a problem that does not actually exist. Moreover, he argues, the bill would help doctors who make money prescribing narcotic pain relievers to an extent that is "detrimental to injured workers." He urges lawmakers to "look more closely at the implications of this bill and why certain stakeholders are advocating for its passage."

The bill's removal of the right of employers to get an independent medical examination when a workers' comp claim has been submitted, has led the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii to oppose the bill. "The IME process is the only real tool an employer has," the Chamber said in an emailing to its members, "to ensure the injured worker's claim is related to work and, if so, that the injured worker is receiving reasonable and necessary medical treatment." The Chamber describes the existing system as "generally amicable."

read … Workers comp rules change criticized by doctors

Act 221 Scammers, Insurance Companies Team Up With Abercrombie Admin to Profit from Controlling Hawaii Health Exchange

HB: Geistling “…we need to develop a system of competent health information technology. We need to get everybody using electronic health records, exchanging information. We need to analyze the data and when we do that we will be able to change our healthcare delivery model and also payment model. But first and foremost I think we need more information….” The key word in that sentence is ‘we’.

read … About the lords of your health

Health exchange board needs to be accountable to public

SA: There's a lot of money involved. According to AARP, a minimum of 100,000 residents may be uninsured, representing a market value conservatively estimated at $300 million and as much as $400 million. That's a big pot of money for insurers.

So, it's no small matter how the exchange is set up and who sits on the board. And therein lies the problem.

The Hawaii Health Connector is being created as a private nonprofit company, which allows the board to operate outside the state Sunshine Law and the state Ethics Law. Hawaii is currently the only state that has established an exchange as a nonprofit…. Hawaii's board, as a consequence, will be able to set benchmark benefits — essentially determining which health plans will be offered — without consumers knowing how or why decisions were reached….

This is made all the more egregious because of Gov. Neil Abercrombie's nominations to the Connector board. Three of them are insurers with a direct financial stake in the outcome: the Hawaii Medical Service Association, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii and Hawaii Dental Service. There are federal rules requiring a nonprofit to have conflict-of-interest guidelines and ethics provisions; however, it's the board that gets to write them. In short, Hawaii's nonprofit board is self-governing. It's a situation that threatens to shut out the public and consumers.

read … Gerald Kato

Hawaii to receive part of $137.5M WellCare settlement

Bloomberg: WellCare Health Plans Inc. agreed to pay $137.5 million to the federal government and nine states, including Hawaii, to resolve civil claims that it overbilled Medicare and Medicaid, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

The settlement resolves four lawsuits filed under the False Claims Act, which lets whistle-blowers sue on behalf of the government and share in any recovery. Three of those cases were filed in Florida, and one in Connecticut, according to U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill.

The Justice Department investigated the cases and joined in them.

Sean Hellein, a former WellCare financial analyst whose complaint initiated the probe, will get $20.75 million, O'Neill said. Three others — Clark Bolton, SF United Partners Inc. and Eugene Gonzalez — will split $4.66 million, O'Neill said….

Besides Hawaii, states sharing in the settlement are Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New York and Ohio, O'Neill said.

read … Hawaii to receive part of $137.5M WellCare settlement

University of Hawaii-Manoa Chancellor Candidate Eliminated Two Dozen Degree Programs at MSU

Lansing, MI: Members of Hawaii’s state Legislature recently raised questions about whether the university needs a chancellor. Prior to 2001, the campus was led by the president of the state’s university system. Some legislators wanted to return to that as a cost-saving measure, but failed to convince their colleagues. Keil called it “a nonissue.”

Sue Carter, a professor of journalism and vice-chair of the university’s Faculty Senate, said Wilcox “has exerted firm and solid leadership through a period of financial difficulties and been very willing, when required, to make the hard choices to secure not only Michigan State University’s present but also its future.”

Those decisions have not always been popular. The proposal to eliminate some two dozen degree programs in 2009 raised particular ire. But Carter said Wilcox hasn’t been one to sacrifice strategy for popularity.

(Good. Maybe he could close out anti-American Studies at UHM.)

read … MSU provost up for chancellor's job at the University of Hawaii-Manoa

Abercrombie’s Apocalypse: The King Nebuchadnezzar Effect

…the Governor sees legislative maneuvering of these egregious exemption bills as part of “The Lazarus Effect” — that which was presumed dead rises and walks again. Thus, there appears to be nothing to be upset about.

However, from the outside looking in, it feels more like the “King Nebuchadnezzar Effect" — the autocratic rudder-less king who cast three Jewish believers into the midst of a burning fiery furnace because they refused to fall down and worship the golden image that he had set up. When the fire did not consume these three naysayers, King Nebuchadnezzar quickly “decreed that every people, nation and language which speak anything amiss about the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill.” ….

read … Abercrombie’s Dunghill

Enviros Pounce on Abercrombie Water Board Nominees

CB: The controversy surrounding Gov. Neil Abercrombie's nominees to a commission that wields significant power over Hawaii's water resources continues, with critics charging that the two candidates don't fulfill qualifications mandated by law.

Jonathan Starr and Ted Yamamura are likely to run into resistance during their Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday.

Yamamura, a Maui land appraiser, is expected to face the stiffest resistance. Attorneys at both the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. and Earthjustice are opposing his confirmation saying that he doesn't have sufficient experience in water resource management. Both law firms are involved in heated legal cases surrounding water rights on Maui.

Yamamura has "demonstrated neither the acuity needed to serve in this (water commission) position, nor the sensitivity to Hawaiian water rights that are so predominant in this area of resource regulation," Alan Murakami, an attorney with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., told Civil Beat by email. "The ignorance of the law such an appointment would perpetuate is the last thing this State needs."

read … Once Again

Rent-a-Mob: Anti-Geothermal Punatics Hammer HECO

WHT: Ignacio’s slide presentation brought out a packed house of testifiers, most of them skeptical that HELCO has their best interests in mind. Most members of the council Committee on Agriculture, Water & Energy Sustainability didn’t seem convinced, either.

Concerns about the risks of geothermal and HELCO’s apparent resistance to allowing homeowners to hook up their own photovoltaic systems topped the list. Most of the 30 or so testifiers were Puna residents with many of them opposed to geothermal energy for health reasons.

“There was nothing in their presentation that any of their plans would reduce electric rates,” said James Weatherford, a County Council candidate in the Puna district that’s home to Puna Geothermal Venture, the state’s only geothermal producer, which has a 30-megawatt plant. “No commitment there whatsoever.”

Ignacio said HELCO is looking to increase geothermal power as a way to bring a stable source of energy into the Big Island grid. The company has recently announced it will be seeking proposals for a contractor to produce up to 50 megawatts more at a location in West Hawaii.

“Will taxpayers be left holding the bag to bail out geothermal profiteers when things go wrong, just like the Wall Street bankers scammed the taxpayers?” said longtime geothermal opponent Jim Albertini. “Same ol’ same ol’ — privatize the profits, socialize the costs.”

A number of Native Hawaiians also came out in opposition, saying tapping into volcanic gases violates their First Amendment religious rights to worship Pele, the goddess of the volcano in Hawaiian legend. But other Hawaiians point to early efforts by Hawaiian royalty, such as King David Kalakaua, to change with the times.

“We as Hawaiians own this resource, and we want to have a voice as we go forward,” said Kealoha Estate owner Kuulei Kealoha Cooper, a proponent of geothermal.

read … Punatics for hire

Another Mainland Solar Contractor Seeks Profits from Hawaii Tax Credits

SA: San Diego-based OneRoof Energy has announced plans to expand into Hawaii and other states, citing rising solar demand. No time-frame was given, however.

The company has secured $3 million in additional financing, atop its earlier round of $50 million in financing from Black Coral Capital, to expand over the course of the year.

The company's customers receive solar installations with little-to-no upfront payment, then make monthly lease payments for the system.

read … Your Tax Dollars at Work

Small Businesses Losing Revenue Due to Bag Bans

KITV: He's spent the past few years researching environmentally friendly compostable bags..but he added that it will cost twice as much to produce .

"I want to have a product that works, that's affordable. My goal is to get the price down," Hong said.

Hong's company turns out 2,000 cases of bags each month supplying some of O'ahu's food industry.

Many of the company's customers are anticipating a loss in revenue if the plastic bag ban were to go through.

"They're worried. They're worried that they're gonna lose sales. There's no question about that," Hong said.

Hong said plastic bags are much cheaper to produce costing just 3 cents compared with 10 cents for paper. Kauai and Maui already ban plastic bags. A ban on the Big Island goes into effect next year. Hong said the ban has hurt small businesses.

"The Mom and Pop stores on Maui and Kaua'i are really suffering. When you walk in the store, instead of buying 10 items, you're only gonna buy a couple because you don't have anything to put it in," Hong said.
Hong's calculations pull up the reality of the consumers will suffering the most in the end, paying more for prodcuts as businesses are forced to raise prices.

read … Aiea bag distributor bracing possible bag ban

Gabbard Adds Bottle Tax to Plastic Bag Tax Bill

HR: Lowell Kalapa, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, said the tax is a “money grab” that has nothing to do with the environment. He said if the tax was really being collected to help the environment, funds would be directed there and not toward several other funds.

Gabbard also stuffed the bag bill with additional contents that include a new tax on dietary supplement drinks. Currently these are exempt from the 6-cent bottle container tax.

The House is expected to continue to oppose the measure.

read … Plastic Bag Obsession

NPS Short Circuits Bottle Ban After Donor Complaints

Two National Parks, Zion National and Hawaii Volcanoes, currently ban the sale of disposable plastic bottles. Recently, a movement to ban their sale in Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) began. In response to that initiative, there has been a lot of interest in NPS director Jon Jarvis’ decision to halt that plan in light of concerns voiced by Coca-Cola. Critics of Jarvis’ decision point out that Coca Cola distributes water in the park and makes significant donations to the NPS. NPS responded to the criticism by saying that postponement of the plan was the result of the need to gather more information on issues such as its implications to concessions contractors and its effects on public safety.

Shortly thereafter, the NPS resurrected the ban but in a slightly different form. That is, before any such ban can be implemented, it must be examined on a park-by-park basis and be approved by the applicable Regional Director. This examination must include an analysis of, among other factors, the cost of installing filling stations, amount of waste to be eliminated, and effects on concessioners. If a NPS superintendent completes such an investigation and the regional director approves a ban, then the NPS can eliminate the sale of plastic bottles within the park.

Such an investigation has recently been completed at the Grand Canyon, and in early March that park will officially ban the sale of bottled water. It remains to be seen how many other parks follow suit.

read … Lexology

Food Truck Fix Passed, Signed into law

KITV: Food truck owners had good reason to rejoice Tuesday after the Honolulu City Council passed a bill 8-0 that allows mobile gourmets to remain in one parking spot longer than 15 minutes.

A few hours after the bill's passage, Mayor Peter Carlisle signed it into law during a brief ceremony at his Honolulu Hale office.

Under Bill 59, lunch wagons are allowed to remain in a single spot for as long as parking signs allow. If no sign is present, the vendor can stay for up to three hours before being required to move more than 300 feet away.

read … Food Truck Fix

Soft on Crime: 13-year Criminal Record, Out of Jail 1 month Tries to Run Down officer in Stolen Jeep

SA: A 31-year-old Honolulu man, who was charged with first-degree attempted murder after he allegedly tried to run down a patrol officer with a stolen car last week in Chinatown, had been released from prison last month after a misdemeanor theft conviction.

Police said Brandon Helekahi was a passenger in a stolen green Jeep Cherokee car when it was stopped at 11:30 a.m. March 28.

Helekahi's record shows that he was convicted of theft March 8 and sentenced to four days in jail and fined $200. He also has seven misdemeanor convictions for theft and abuse of family member beginning in 1999.

read … Soft on Crime

Mayor Won't Cancel Sewage Treatment Contract

CB: Synagro is staying, and a budget battle is brewing — again.

Despite repeated threats from Honolulu City Council members and even an offer from another company to build new sewage treatment technology at no immediate cost to taxpayers, Mayor Peter Carlisle will not terminate the city's contract with the controversial fertilizer pellet producer….

Immediately following the discussion of the Synagro contract, a would-be replacement was invited to share their proposal.

HRP 56 would install an egg-shaped digester identical in size and shape to Syangro's, but instead of producing fertilizer pellets, the company would heat the sludge up and generate biogas, which it would then burn for electricity. It would make money by selling that electricity back to the city at a profit.

The company paid for Cachola, Kobayashi and Ikaika Anderson to travel to San Francisco to tour a similar facility there. The Honolulu politicians wrote positive reports about their experiences upon their return.

Executives said they could operate the facility for $500,000 less each year than Synagro does, and that the city's currently wasting $300,000 to $400,000 every month on unused biogas.

The HRP 56 executives also said Caterpillar would provide 80 percent of the financing, and local investors would supply the rest, meaning there would be no upfront cost to the city for construction of the $28 million facility. But that doesn't make it free — the city would end up paying for the construction, as well as the interest rates for financing and any profits, through electricity fees.

Synagro Deal: Rep John Conyers Wife in Federal Prison

read … Sludge

‘October Baby’ Well Received in Honolulu, Slated for National Rollout

DMN: The makers of October Baby always believed their anti-abortion movie would play well in the Bible Belt. But in its March 23 debut weekend of limited national release, the drama generated solid box office business in Hawaii, New York, Nebraska and Montana. Those returns have given fresh momentum to — and brought some unexpected donations for — October Baby’s planned expansion.

Premiering in 390 theaters, October Baby grossed $1.7 million for eighth place overall, a good start for a self-financed film supported by a paltry marketing budget of just $3 million. While the bulk of the film’s revenue came from theaters in the southeastern United States, October Baby played in crowded auditoriums in cities such as Honolulu and Omaha.

read … October Baby

HPD officers say enforcing 30-year old policy endangers their lives

HNN: The policy began in 1982, in the wake of the unsolved murder of Lisa Au, a 19-year-old Kailua hairdresser.

A man walking his dog found her body on Tantalus about ten days after her car was discovered along the highway near the old Kailua drive-in theater.

At the time, witnesses said they thought they saw a police car with blue flashing grill lights behind Au's car in Kailua the night she disappeared, which fueled speculation a police officer or someone impersonating a cop could have been responsible for her death.

That's why HPD banned blue flashing lights not issued by the department. But officers are still able to install certain types of red- and white-colored lights in their vehicles.

read … Blue Lights

Hawaii Still Waiting as Coast Guard Rolls Out ‘Rescue 21’ System on Mainland

In 2007 the USA began rolling out what they called '21st Century technology' for search and rescue, a system called Rescue 21.
With 40,625 miles of USA coastline now covered by Rescue 21, only a few outposts like Alaska, Hawaii and some inland areas are still waiting.

How it works:
• A call for help is sent
• Direction finding (DF) equipment from one or more high sites computes the direction from which the signal originated, or line of bearing (LOB)
• Distress audio and the LOB are sent to the closest Ground Center(s)
• Appropriate resources are dispatched to respond immediately — even across regional boundaries

read … About What happens to Federal Programs that don’t intere$t Dan Inouye’s Cronies

Inouye, Wife Visit Arab-American Museum

PG: Dearborn, MI-- Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) on Tuesday stopped by the Arab American National Musem for a private tour of an exhibit on Arab-American service in the military.

The exhibition documents the service of Arab Americans in the U.S. Armed Forces, the Peace Corps and the diplomatic corps. After completing its run at the AANM in June. Patriots & Peacemakers is scheduled to travel to several U.S. cities.

First elected in 1963, Inouye is the second longest serving senator in history behind Robert Byrd. He is also the second longest serving current member of Congress, coincidentally behind the congressman whose district he was visiting, Rep. John Dingell (D-Dearborn). Inouye, chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and the Defense Subcommittee on Appropriations, is a longtime supporter of the museum and contributed to the exhibition.

Inouye's wife, Irene Hirano Inouye, was also on the visit. The tour gave her a chance to see the place she had a hand in crafting through her advice and mentoring to AANM Director Dr. Anan Ameri during the museum's formative period. She is the former president and founding director of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and current president of the U.S. Japan Counci.

read … AJAs a model for American Muslims?


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