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Sunday, April 22, 2012
April 22, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:07 PM :: 15138 Views

Zip Needed in Public Decision Making

Hawaii Court Ruling Challenges Gun Ban After Non-Violent Misdemeanor Conviction

DHS Money Grab Threatens Hawaii Hospitals, Nursing Homes

SA: Private hospitals and large nursing homes are willing to pay new fees to draw millions in federal money to help cover health care for the poor, but the agreement is at risk of dissolving in a dispute over how much of the money should go to the state.

A provider fee on private hospitals would generate $42 million to attract additional federal money for QUEST, the state's version of the federal Medicaid program, and result in $77 million in payments back to hospitals to help cover the cost of providing care to the poor and uninsured. A provider fee on large nursing homes would raise $11.5 million and result in a return of about $21 million.

The fragile consensus among hospitals and nursing homes that provider fees are worthwhile — meaning they would get both the fees and additional money back in the exchange — is built on an expectation that the state would take 5 percent of the fees. But the state Department of Human Services wants to retain about 12 percent and use some of the money to … (insert excuse here) ….

Hawaii is one of the few states without provider fees to help cover Medicaid costs. Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia use the fees to leverage additional federal Medicaid money. The share of money that states retain from the fees varies widely.

Under draft legislation before lawmakers in conference committee, all but a few private hospitals and large nursing homes would get a return on the provider fees. The fees would be no more than 3 percent of net patient service revenue.

The incentive to voluntarily pay the fees is the potential to improve Medicaid reimbursement payments that many see as unsustainable. Greene said hospitals are reimbursed 70 cents for every $1 in Medicaid patient care. The provider fees would generate higher reimbursement payments that could push that ratio to 83 cents on the dollar….

…several industry sources say privately that there is a lack of trust….

The conference drafts of the hospital provider fee (House Bill 2275) and the nursing home fee (Senate Bill 2466) reflect the industry's position….

(Once this gets started, the State will grab for more and more money every year.)

January 15, 2012: After Failing to Save HMC, Legislature Finally Getting Around to Tapping Federal Funds to Raise Medicare/Medicaid Reimbursement

read … Money Grab

HSTA Candidates Bicker Over Who is Better at Killing Education Reform

SA: Political analyst Neal Milner said the breakdown of talks vast year, which led to the state's decision to unilaterally implement a contract — an unprecedented move in Hawaii public sector union negotiations — could hurt Okabe in the elections.

"Part of it is a question of how much the teachers will blame the state for that," versus the union, Milner said.

Teachers' overwhelming rejection in January of a six-year contract that included a new performance evaluation system may also sway teachers toward Daugherty.

"I have a hunch that the opponent is going to do fairly well," said Milner, a retired University of Hawaii political science professor.

But Milner noted that Daugherty hardly appears to be a contrasting choice. The teacher has been active in HSTA for more than 25 years and has been on the negotiations committee for eight.

And while Okabe might face questions over his handling of last year's contract negotiations, he can claim a recent victory in helping topple proposed legislation aimed at mandating the move to a performance management system for teachers. House and Senate versions of bills that would have required the system were recommitted earlier this month, essentially killing them this legislative session. The recommittals followed a major lobbying effort by HSTA, which argued the measures would take away members' rights.

Milner said Okabe will probably use the death of the bills "as a feather in his cap."

Meanwhile on the Homefront: New gaming software improves students' math scores

read … Kill Kill Kill

Senate Shows Little Interest in Environmental Exemption Bill

SA: State transportation officials, and state House Speaker Calvin Say, are champing at the bit to get improvements going there and at other public facilities, but insist that bureaucratic red tape is holding back repairs. They're pushing Senate Bill 755, which would grant a three-year exemption from some environmental laws for a slew of public projects.

However, they are unable to detail the airport projects that have been held up….

Say cited the widening of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway to Kona International Airport that had been delayed because of environmental review. The state Department of Transportation has said the delay of more than two years has been caused by bid protests and recent inadvertent archaeological finds near the project, according to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

A Transportation Department spokesman on Friday said no project is now "stuck" because of environmental review requirements….

Final decking of legislative bills occurs this week, the deadline for measures to be presented in their final forms for voting before the Legislature adjourns May 3. At this point, House and Senate conferees have yet to meet and iron out differences, and Harris has doubts whether the bill will be enacted. He hopes it won't be.

"My suspicion is that the Senate isn't really interested in moving on it," he said, "and, frankly, I'm surprised that the House has pushed it as aggressively as they have, particularly during an election year, knowing there isn't an appetite on the Senate side."

read … The environmental exemption bill: Would it help or harm?

Star-Adv: Hirono should debate Case more often

SA: U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono is among the most liberal members of the U.S. House. Her primary opponent, former U.S. Rep. Ed Case, built a more moderate record during his three House terms. Their differences, in both policy and style, are significant. Hawaii Democrats will need to make a thoughtful, fully informed choice about whom to advance to the general election.

Unfortunately, Hirono has chosen to make it difficult for voters to weigh their options. Thus far, she is restricting her appearances with Case mainly to a handful of debates at small, private venues and a televised forum on PBS Hawaii. She has not accepted invitations from any of the major news media outlets to debate Case in front of the largest Hawaii audience possible.

read … The Case Family Advertiser

Suzanne Case: Stop Global Warming Because I need to Get to My House on Round Top

SA: University of Hawaii climate change law professor Maxine Burkett notes our own extreme weather, in March 2006: "a biblical rain lasting 40 days and 40 nights." Floods. Sewage overflows. Beach closures. Nine mudslides onto Round Top Drive blocked the main road to my own home for 20 months, and cost millions to repair…. (She forgot to mentions snakes and locusts.)

Locally and globally, climate change affects us indiscriminately, from the highest saint to the lowest human trafficker. (Well, she doesn’t have far to go to find an example….)

Speaking of Human Trafficking: Green hypocrites: Case & Omidyar’s Maui Land & Pine tied to human trafficking case

read … The Case Family Advertiser

Sierra Club Endorses Hanabusa, Hirono, Gabbard

CB: Candidates endorsed by the Sierra Club have a proven record of protecting Hawaii’s clean water, special places, and spectacular biodiversity while putting Hawaii on a path to a sustainable future. They understand that transitioning to sustainable solutions — like developing clean energy and increasing local food production — is the basis for a strong economy.

read … Sierra Club Endorses Hanabusa, Hirono, Gabbard

Retail Giants Want to Make Sure they Get a Cut of the Bag Tax Action

From Hawaii Food Industry Association: There's a bill in the state Legislature that would set a reasonable "single use" fee on both plastic and paper bags. The bill would encourage alternatives to both types of bags. But if lawmakers let the bill die, grocery costs will likely continue to increase in counties that have banned plastic bags.

Here's why.

Well-intentioned officials in Maui, Kauai and Hawaii counties have banned the use of plastic bags by retail stores. Honolulu City Council members are considering a similar ban. By all accounts, the bans have dramatically reduced the use of plastic bags on Maui and Kauai. And that initially appeared to be a win for consumers and the environment.

But sadly, most shoppers have not chosen reusable alternatives to plastic bags. Retailers on Kauai and Maui report that shoppers now often choose "free" paper bags. And, for retailers, paper bags are up to 10 times costlier than plastic ones. So for one supermarket chain, the extra cost of paper bags is about $600,000 a year or roughly $30,000 per store. Supermarkets on Maui and Kauai have reported similar increases.

(With the bag tax, retailers not only will not have to pay extra for paper bags, but per HB2483 they will actually receive revenue from the taxes.)

Environmental groups like the Sierra Club have testified at the state Capitol that a bill setting fees for plastic and paper bags is better than a plastic-only bag ban. It's something on which grocery stores and environmental groups agree. (The Enviros get a cut of the action, too!)

The only person not sitting at this table is the consumer.

read … Bag fee should cover plastic and paper

Kakaako advocates rally against OHA’s residential development

KITV: Residents, surfers and beach park users alike took to the streets today to take a stand against development.

It's all in opposition to House Bill 2819 that would lift the residential restriction on two parcels of land on the makai side of Kakaako.

If we allow the two exceptions to the no residential law for the two parcels OHA's getting, I know that's going to open the door for more exceptions to follow," said Ron Iwami, President of Kakaako area advocacy group Friends of Kewalos….

OHA chair Colette Machado has said in the past she would like to see workforce rental housing in the area

KHON: Representative Jerry Chang who introduced HB 2819 had no comment

read … Kakaako

Hawaii Should Demand Labeling of ‘Organic’ Foods

Not a single human being has been shown to have been harmed by GMO foods ever. Anti-GMO activism is a scare campaign designed to promote the business interests of the so-called 'organic' food industry. Hundreds of people are harmed and many die every year due to consumption of e coli tainted 'organic' foods.

Warning Labels Needed:

Star-Adv Prints ‘Organic’ Propaganda … Hawaii should require labeling of GMO foods

Dispute reveals OHA Grant Funded Kawaiaha'o Disinterment

SA: As Kawaiaha‘o Church continues to excavate human burials in preparation for building a multipurpose center, a rift has emerged between Hawaii's oldest church and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which helped finance the $17.5 million proj­ect.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which donated $1 million in 2007 for the multipurpose building, recently chastised Kawaiaha‘o leaders for pushing ahead with disinterment, and expressed regret at not making its gift contingent on the church following usual practices under a state law created to protect and respect Native Hawaiian burials. As of this month the church has removed about 400 burials.

OHA, a state agency that works for the betterment of Native Hawaiians, also has raised questions as to whether the church properly spent its grant. OHA communicated the concerns in a pair of letters sent to Kawaiaha‘o on Feb. 23.

Disinterment work began last year after controversial decisions by the state Department of Health and a state court judge cleared the way.

OHA's criticism of Kawaiaha‘o followed a letter it received from the church Jan. 11. The church's letter complained about an OHA employee testifying as an expert witness for someone who sued the church to prevent construction of the multipurpose building.

"Given the grant agreement with OHA, Kawaiaha‘o Church does not understand why a representative of OHA would provide expert testimony against Kawaiaha‘o Church and impede the church's ability to move forward with the proj­ect or to fulfill its obligations under the OHA grant," said the letter signed by Frank Pestana, chairman of the church's board of trustees, and senior pastor Curt Kekuna.

The OHA employee is Kai Markell, a cultural specialist and director of the agency's Native Rights, Land and Culture division. Part of Markell's job involves monitoring construction proj­ects for compliance with the burial law.

read … Burial Split

Defense Lawyers Upset over Bill Protecting Animals

SA: State law now defines terroristic threatening as making a threat "by word or conduct … to cause bodily injury to another person or serious damage or harm to property."

Senate Bill 2486 includes the words "pets or livestock" after property.

The bill received support from the Hawaiian Humane Society and the Humane Society of the United States.

The public defender's office called the bill unnecessary, saying that animals already come under the definition of property.

read … Defend This!

AP: Hawaii College Grads Face Worst Job Prospects in Years

AP: Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University who analyzed the numbers, said many people with a bachelor's degree face a double whammy of rising tuition and poor job outcomes. "Simply put, we're failing kids coming out of college," he said, emphasizing that when it comes to jobs, a college major can make all the difference. "We're going to need a lot better job growth and connections to the labor market, otherwise college debt will grow."

By region, the Mountain West was most likely to have young college graduates jobless or underemployed — roughly 3 in 5. It was followed by the more rural southeastern U.S., including Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee. The Pacific region, including Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington, also was high on the list.

On the other end of the scale, the southern U.S., anchored by Texas, was most likely to have young college graduates in higher-skill jobs….

About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years.

According to government projections released last month, only three of the 30 occupations with the largest projected number of job openings by 2020 will require a bachelor's degree or higher to fill the position - teachers, college professors and accountants. Most job openings are in professions such as retail sales, fast food and truck driving, jobs which aren't easily replaced by computers. (Obama’s McJobs!)

College graduates who majored in zoology, anthropology, philosophy, art history and humanities were among the least likely to find jobs appropriate to their education level; those with nursing, teaching, accounting or computer science degrees were among the most likely.

read … About Obamanomics

KIUC smart meter rollout to begin

KGI: Starting in May, Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative will begin its 18-month effort to replace its existing electric meters with smart meters.

The co-op’s smart meter rollout is part of an $11 million infrastructure project that, upon completion, will have the ability to transmit real-time supply-and-demand data wirelessly to the utility from 33,000 homes and businesses across an island-wide mesh network of smart meters and smart grids.

read … Smart?

Political Pressure, New Competition Bring New Cuts In Star Advertiser Ad Rates

HR: Honolulu’s monopoly newspaper has again slashed advertising rates in the face of new government objections to the charges as well as competition from a newcomer to the market.

Star Advertiser publisher Dennis Francis notified lawmakers Friday that the newspaper has halved the $90 per-column-inch charge it has been assessing for publication of non-judicial foreclosure notices. The ads are a lucrative source of income for the newspaper.

“In our meetings with legislators, some have expressed concerns regarding the cost of non-judicial foreclosure ads,” Francis said in a letter to lawmakers.

“Effective immediately, we have reduced our rate from $90 per-column-inch (pci) to $45 pci,” the letter said.

The notices must be published by parties pursuing foreclosure actions via out-of-court proceedings. Costs of the ads are paid by the foreclosers.

State law now effectively requires publication of the Honolulu notices in the Star Advertiser but a bill now pending at the Legislature would amend that statute in ways that could benefit a new weekly and online publication here called Island Sun Weekly.

read … Poor Star-Advertiser. So sad for them…


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