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Friday, December 21, 2012
December 21, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:13 PM :: 5351 Views

Sneak Attack? Akaka Bill Placed on Senate Calendar

List of Potential Senate Candidates is also List of Potential Special Election Candidates

Akaka's Hatch Act Modernization Bill Passes Congress

Akaka Introduces Tribal Self-Governance Bill

Auditor: Keep Postsecondary Authorization Board at UH

Auditor Identifies Eleven Improper Revolving Funds  

Abercrombie Plan: Shortchange Retirees for next 150 Years 

CB: Hawaii would have to spend more than $500 million a year for the next 30 years to make the state's employee health and retirement funds viable again, state Finance Director Kalbert Young says.

But the state can't afford that level of funding, not to mention secure the necessary support from the Legislature, so Gov. Neil Abercrombie is proposing $100 million a year to at least start getting a grip on the rising problem of unfunded liabilities.

That still means the system won't be solvent for another 150 years, but it could produce near-term benefits like better credit ratings and lower interest rates, Young said.

House Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro said in a recent interview that he wants the Legislature to get serious about addressing unfunded liabilities. He said he would be happy if he could get lawmakers to approve $50 million next year.

Young said the administration spent the past two years trying to work with the 76 legislators to help them understand why dealing with unfunded liabilities is at least as important as any other major demand facing the state. (They are dim aren’t they?  But at least they have Dan’s ear…. ooops.)

Reality: Act 100: How Hanabusa and Cayetano launched Hawaii Pension crisis

read … Half a Billion a Year

Star-Adv: Keep Giving Millions to Solar Scammers while Legislature Dithers

SA: Hawaii's solar industry, now robustly competitive and mature, needs to be weaned off the credits — though that should be done by policymaking legislators in the next couple of months, not abruptly by new temporary tax rules effective Jan. 1.

Legislators should have foreseen that their inaction last session would spur a frustrated state Tax Department to impose the new rules to curtail solar tax credits after higher-than-expected costs to the economy.

That lost revenue to state coffers rose significantly to $173.8 million in 2012 from $34.7 million two years earlier, spurring the state Council on Revenues to downgrade Hawaii's total revenue forecast….

The Tax Department is urged to defer its new rules while lawmakers tackle the needed solar-credit readjustments. This is especially sensible since some PV projects have already gained exemptions from the Jan. 1 change.

Further compounding the confusion: Two environmental groups have filed suit over the department's new rules, which aim to suddenly reduce the number of solar tax credits that can be claimed….

There is widespread agreement that many are gaming the system. It is up to state lawmakers to quickly acknowledge this, clarify its definition and intent for a $5,000 credit cap for a PV system, and start phasing down solar tax credits.

Reality: Why Stop at $500K? DoTax Secret Agreement Allows Giant Solar Scammers to Reap Multiple Tax Credits

read … Hold off on solar-tax rule changes

Barrel Tax: State Energy Office Makes Grab for General Fund

PBN: The State Energy Office will present a plan to the state Legislature in January that would nearly double what it currently receives from the so-called barrel tax in an effort to use the funding to install more programs and add staff to help the state move more quickly in its pursuit of renewable-energy goals.

The barrel tax, which was increased from 5 cents to $1.05 cents in 2010, increased gasoline and energy prices with the main goal of funding clean-energy solutions and benefiting food security efforts. But of that $1.05, 60 cents went into the general fund….

read … Another Excuse to Hike Energy Taxes

Iwase: State Should form Panel Mandated to Invent New Types of Taxation

SA: One problem: This time the commission concluded that the state was headed for some serious red ink and that it couldn’t be fixed with tax reforms alone.

What’s needed, Iwase said, is another panel, one that has the power to propose changes in both the way state government raises revenue and the way it spends. The shorthand description of this body, as policy wonks might guess, is “Simpson-Bowles,” the name of the panel convened to prescribe a cure for the federal fiscal illness; it bears the names of its chairmen, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles.  (Which makes an ‘invent new taxes’ commission sound authoritative instead of dangerous.) 

The tax panel veered into controversy in recent months, when a study by The PFM Group, a Boston firm hired as consultants, included a proposal to raise the general excise tax (GET). The commission did not endorse that idea, though.

Among the state commission’s other findings: Congress needs to pass legislation enabling states to collect taxes that are now lost when customers shop on the Internet; the state tax office needs to staff up to increase auditing and back-tax collections; and tax incentives are needed to spur new business to diversify the economy, along with set criteria for gauging their effectiveness.

“I believe every single tax credit law ought to be have to have a sunset review,” he said. “Then the proponents of that law would have to justify renewing.” 

read … Randy Iwase

State urged to beef up its mental health services

SA: Hawaii mental health advocates say the shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school underscores the need for a robust mental health safety net and for improved efforts to provide resources and support to individuals early — at the first signs of worrisome behavior.

They also say that while the state is making progress toward rebuilding its network of mental health services, after years of budget cuts, there is still much work to do.

"We did have cutbacks to some crucial services," said Dr. Denis Mee-Lee, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Castle Medical Center and a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Hawaii chapter's board.

Mee-Lee added one area in great need of improvement is mental health outreach, which allows providers to "intervene very early when we might see things that are a little worrying."

…getting someone help is often a complicated, draining and difficult process. "The tragedy is there is not always a way to get them help," she said.

The Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe, the only state-run psychiatric hospital in the islands, almost exclusively admits those who have been ordered there by the courts after committing a crime.

Grambs said that means that someone who may need inpatient treatment but who has not been arrested has a dearth of options available to them….

In the coming legislative session, mental health advocates plan to support changes to the state's involuntary outpatient psychiatric treatment law that would clarify who should be ordered by the court to receive mandatory care.

Advocates say the law is rarely used in large part because it's not clear who qualifies for involuntary outpatient treatment.

Meanwhile, state officials say they're working to rebuild and improve Hawaii's mental health network.

The Department of Health, for example, has restored some adult mental health services that had been cut during the economic downturn, including for crisis support and case management, and is looking to bring back more.

In a statement, DOH Director Loretta J. Fuddy said her department will hold community forums in the new year to solicit "input to help us prioritize the services we will expand in 2013."

Also in the new year, the state plans to kick off an effort to streamline the delivery of mental health services to thousands of low-income adults who are elderly or disabled.

Dr. Kenneth Fink, administrator for the Med-Quest Division at the state Department of Human Services, said patients will go to a single program for all of their behavioral health services, rather than having to navigate what can sometimes be a bureaucratic maze.

"I think we can do a better job of serving these individuals," he said, adding the change will improve the quality of care and "reduce the fragmentation of the system."

(Watch for crafty underhanded resistance from ACLU and some mental health insiders to undermine this.)

Related: Connecticut Shooting: Failure of Mental Health System

read … Mental Health

Cayetano to Speak on 'Ending Corruption in Hawaii'

HR: Former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano, who is involved with two significant lawsuits in Hawaii, will headline the Smart Business Hawaii Annual Conference on Wednesday, January 9, discussing "Ending Corruption in Hawaii."

Cayetano has a lawsuit pending against the Hawaii Carpenters Union, PRP Hawaii, its director John White, its board members and advertising agency after PRP spent $3 million on attack ads and push polls trying to ensure Cayetano was not elected Honolulu mayor.

read … Cayetano

Police Cleanse Thomas Square

DN: No sooner did the toner dry on a stipulated order filed with the federal court yesterday (see below) than Honolulu police descended on the (de)Occupy encampment near Thomas Square to tag property.

The lawsuit filed by attorneys for several (de)Occupy Honolulu plaintiffs asks for a preliminary injunction and a jury trial to prevent the city from violating plaintiffs’ civil rights and asks for compensation for property taken and destroyed illegally. The agreement draw up by both parties is in lieu of a temporary restraining order and basically requires the city to follow its own ordinance.

(Activists will be doing everything they can to create a violation. At stake is the future of the homelessness industry.)

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hdoug/sets/72157632297331263/

LINK: Download Stipulated order in lieu of TRO from Disappeared News

read … De-Occupied Again

Hawaii's population grows by 1% in past year

HNN: Hawaii had 1,378,129 residents last July, and had a net gain of more than 14,000 residents in the past year for a total of 1,392,313….

…there was an average increase of 39 people per day in Hawaii, with an average of 50 births and 28 deaths per day….

On average, 17 more people moved into Hawaii than moved out on any given day….

PBN reported in May that the number of Hawaii residents age 65 and older grew more than three times faster than the total state population

read … 1%

Bad News for Solar Scammers, Electric Bills Going Down

SA: Residential electricity rates fell 11 percent on Oahu this month compared with December 2011. The typical bill on Oahu dropped to its lowest level since the spring of 2011.

Hawaiian Electric Co. said a typical 600-kilowatt-hour bill for Oahu residential customers this month is $195.38, down from $219.03 a year ago. The typical December bill was $4.80 less than November's $200.18 bill and was the lowest since May 2011 when the typical bill was $188.88.

The effective rate for electricity on Oahu in December is 31.1 cents a kilowatt-hour, down from 31.9 cents a kilowatt-hour last month. Electric rates also fell in November and October.

Still, Hawaii has the highest electrical rates in the nation. The statewide average of 37.07 cents a kilowatt-hour in September was more than triple the national average of 12.3 cents a kilowatt-hour,

read … 11%

Big Cable: What Passes for Resource Planning In Hawaii

Is it planning when the first paragraph of the enabling docket says the utility is free to ignore the IRP recommendations?

Is it planning when the RFP for the undersea cables is due long before you release your recommendations?

Is it planning when the impacts of the cable and related projects on local communities, on the environment, and on ratepayer wallets are not integrated at all, but only included as an afterthought?

Is it planning when the monopoly utility's equipment, financial condition, and capacity for reform are excluded from the discussion?

read … Resource Planning

Gun lines build at HPD headquarters

KHON: The Honolulu Police Department's main station is the place to apply for a gun permit and register weapons on Oahu.

Many people who were there Wednesday morning waited in line for over an hour.

"It's been a while, but it's slowly going. The main thing it's moving along and hopefully it can get to the doors," said Shawn Hanakawa.

Hanakawa is registering an assault rifle. It's one of the weapons that could be banned with the president's latest move for stricter gun laws, in light of the mass shooting in Connecticut last week.

read … Gun Lines

HECO Faces: ‘Strong Regulated Growth Opportunities’

Zacks’ analyst wrote, “The performance of Hawaiian Electric Industries is steadily improving through operational excellence, constructive regulatory outcomes and a focus on enlarging its renewable portfolio. However, the company has yet to earn the approved ROE for its regulated utility assets. Hawaiian Electric expects to plug the ROE gap in the future through significant earnings growth at its regulated businesses, driven by a constructive regulatory structure and strong regulated growth opportunities. In addition, lower electricity volume sales, a tourism-dependent Hawaiian economy and uncertainty over the sustainable strength of the Japanese economy continue to weigh on the stock’s valuation.

read … HECO

Obama: Inspired by Vision of Inouye Prosecuting Nixon  

POLITICO: Obama recalled growing up in Hawaii but not tuning into politics until he saw Inouye on television during Watergate hearings. He said Inouye captured his attention more than anyone else on the screen because he didn’t look like a senator “from central casting” and because he showed what democracy should be.

“I was beginning to sense how fitting in to the world might not be as simple as it might seem,” Obama said. But Inouye’s presence at such an important national moment, showing how democracy is supposed to work “hinted to me what might be possible in my own life,” he said.

“Were it not for those two insights planted in my head…at the age of 11,” he said, “I might never have considered a career in public service. I might not be standing here today.”

VIDEO: Biden ‘Inouye was the quintessential American’

read … Obama

Japan: Inouye Monopolized US-Japan Relations, death leaves hole  

JT: Inouye, the first U.S. lawmaker of Japanese descent, was seen as a guardian figure who moved quickly to avoid conflict between Japan and the United States…. After the souring of relations over the relocation of the controversial Futenma air station in Okinawa under the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatayama, Inouye urged Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom he had supported in the 2008 presidential election, and others to be more protective of Japan.

He also supported requests from the Japanese side to prevent the integration of Futenma into the U.S. Air Force's Kadena base in Okinawa, as proposed by Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Despite the influence of Inouye, however, the bridge between Japan and the United States gradually began to wither. Even when Diet members made visits to the United States, meetings other than with Inouye would be limited mainly to former government officials well-versed in Japanese affairs.

The new Congress starting in January will have one senator who is Japanese-American, and four others of Japanese descent in the House of Representatives, but they won't have anywhere near Inouye's sway.

read … Mazie Who?

North Korea’s missile launch could affect work in Hawaii

PBN: North Korea’s successful rocket launch earlier this month and the U.S. military’s increased focus on the Asia-Pacific region could impact Hawaii in the form of more land-based missile defense facilities and/or more ships equipped to shoot down missiles headed toward the Islands, military experts say.

read … "Containment"

Kauai Council bans Fishing at Old Hawaiian Fish Pond

KGI: “Not allowing people to put hooks … and spearfishing, and shooting fish in a barrel,” in a very limited area at Lydgate, would not significantly impact Native Hawaiian gathering rights, said Councilman Tim Bynum, adding that the bill provides a safe environment for children.

Bill 2452 makes it illegal to take, injure, possess or remove any fish, crustacean, mollusk (including sea shell and ‘opihi), live coral, algae or limu, or any marine life, eggs included, from Morgan’s Ponds….

Since it was first introduced at first reading on Oct. 10, the bill went through a few deferrals while at the council’s Parks and Recreation Committee and then again on second and final reading Nov. 28. The main reason was a concern for a potential violation of Native Hawaiian rights.

Council Chair Jay Furfaro, who was absent for personal reasons at the final vote, said at a Dec. 2 meeting that there was no intent in interrupting Public Access Shoreline Hawai‘i rights to Native Hawaiians, all they had to do is show their ancestor lineage.

read … Civilization Continues to Regress

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