Hawaii Scores ‘F’ on Health Care Price Transparency Laws
Sunburned by Corporate Welfare
Notable bills to be heard this week
New Governor Seeks Jones Act exemption to grow Puerto Rican Economy
Abercrombie: Hotel Industry TAT Concerns are "Propaganda"
SB69: Gun Registration Bill to be Heard Today
Hawaii Republican Party Growth and Opportunity Project
Hawaii GOP Chair Tours S. Korea With President Bush
Defense Contractor Charged in Hawaii with Communicating Classified Information
Hero Clarence Nishihara Defends Science Against Religious Fanatics
CB: Environmental activist Jessica Mitchell is upset with state Sen. Clarence Nishihara for not hearing House Bill 174, which would impose labels on imported genetically engineered food.
If the food is not labeled, Hawaii would not permit its sale or distribution here.
HB 174 passed the House, but Nishihara, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, won't hold a hearing on his side of the Capitol.
SA: Eco-Religionist Claims Moral Superiority
read … Screaming ‘Blasphemer!’
UPDATE: Senate will hear GMO labeling bill, despite initial concerns over constitutionality
HNN: Senator Nishihara … says he stands by the federal government's position that GMO food poses no threat to consumers and cites scientific research that says it's indistinguishable for non-GMO food.
"I don't know how many different ways you can say it to different people and some people will never be convinced, but I think they want it to be heard so they'll have the opportunity. They'll have the chance to say what they have to say," said Senator Nishihara.
read … Senate will hear GMO labeling bill, despite initial concerns over constitutionality
Coal Plant Shutdown raises HECO rates 9%
SA: Oahu's residential electricity rates were higher in February and March largely because a coal-fired plant that provides the island's cheapest source of power was down for maintenance, Hawaiian Electric Co. officials said Monday.
The 180-megawatt plant operated by independent power producer AES Corp. has the capacity to provide about 15 percent of the island's peak electricity demand. The cost to produce electricity at the AES plant is about 9 cents a kilowatt-hour versus about 21 cents a kilowatt-hour for power produced by the oil-burning plants that provide the bulk of HECO's electricity generation, according to a presentation HECO officials made to state legislators in January.
The typical bill for an Oahu household using 600 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month will rise to $218.75 in March from $216.11 in February, according to HECO. Both were significantly higher than the $200.91 typical bill in January.
HECO is charging 34.9 cents a kilowatt-hour for electricity this month, up from 34.5 cents a kilowatt-hour in February
read … Less Coal More Bill
Proposal aims to increase hotel room tax by 2%
KHON: Legislators raised the rate from 7.25 percent six years ago to the current 9.25 percent.
Gov. Abercrombie and Mayor Caldwell propose hiking it another two percent.
But the hotel industry is asking that it be lowered, back to what it was six years ago.
"Utility costs have gone up 41 percent. Our payroll has gone up 28 percent, our health and welfare costs have gone up 20 percent," said Max Sword, Outrigger Hotels.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority says that extra two percent means each visitor would pay an extra $50 per visit, which is significant in an industry that's highly competitive….
The House Tourism Committee did not vote on the proposal on Monday. For now, the hotel room tax stands at 9.25 percent.
read … Tax Hike
School land bill moves forward in Hawaii Senate
AP: On Monday, senators heard the House version of the bill. They replaced its text with the Senate proposal, a more cautious approach that allows just two projects in three years. The bill goes next the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
Lawmakers' cautiousness is partially in response to an outpouring of criticism from people who fear the initiative is an offshoot of the state's much-maligned public land development agency….
Waikiki resident Liz Larson told senators Monday that she is worried about how the bill will affect inner-city schools.
"If a high-rise structure is developed on the property of Jefferson Elementary School, the land will never be reclaimed for the children," said Larson, who has two sons at the school that sits at the edge of Oahu's famous hotel district.
Larson said she knows that land in Waikiki is valuable and could bring in a lot of revenue. But she said open space on school properties is especially important for families like hers who raise their kids in one-bedroom apartments.
"We're the ones who value the land the most," she said.
Neither the House nor the Senate drafts specify which schools could be developed first. But Jefferson Elementary School Principal Scott Parker testified in favor of the bill, calling the plan a "no-brainer."
House Committee on Education Chairman Roy Takumi said it would make sense to consider urban schools for pilot projects, suggesting Waikiki Elementary School, saying it would be easier to consolidate urban schools rather than rural schools.
He also suggested schools that are sitting on expansive properties such as Kihei High School on Maui, which he said has 77 acres of land….
read … School Land
Hawaii Preschool Plan in Crunch as Advocates Vow to Restore Funding
CB: Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s three early education proposals are sailing through the Legislature, but the money he originally proposed to pay for the initiative’s first phase — the School Readiness program — got scrapped by the state House last week.
Now, supporters are pinning their hopes on the Senate finance committee, which is expected to take up the budget bill Tuesday, to restore the funding. On Monday, advocates gathered at the state Capitol for an informational briefing to update the public on the early education bills and encourage supporters to testify on the budget bill Tuesday.
read … Preschool
Legislators to Get $10K Pay Hike
KITV: Hawaii lawmakers could soon get a huge pay increase. The state salary commission recommended legislators get a 21 percent raise this summer.
Currently, each Senator and Representative, with the exception of the Senate President and House Speaker, makes $46,272. Cuts in 2009 froze pay at that level where it has remains.
On Monday, the state salary commission recommended lawmakers get paid $55,896 starting July 1, which is when those salary reductions end….
"I think our pay is fine the way it is. It is a part-time job. It's a very good salary for a part-time job. The problem is too many people make it a full-time profession," said McDermott.
"I don't think it’s a good idea. They're taking money from the economy to pay themselves. Why should everyone suffer so they can get a better BMW?" asked Honolulu resident Chris Evans.
The salary recommendations will now go to the governor's office for approval.
SA: 2% More pay raises advocated for top officials, judges (They’re doing this so they can take it back and look like heroes while they pick up the big increase.)
Related: Hanabusa: “Legislators work very hard and deserve the raise”, Hawaii Legislators’ pay tops nation
read … Lawmakers could get big raises
Bill: Let City Have Greater Share Of Rail Surcharge
CB: That’s what Senate Bill 571, which had a hearing Monday March 18, calls for. Specifically: Changes the State’s automatic deduction of 10% of the gross proceeds of a county’s surcharge on state tax to a deduction of an unspecified percentage to reimburse the State for costs associated with handling the assessments, collection, and disposition of the county surcharge on state tax. Allows the State, by rule, to change the unspecified percentage to an amount not exceeding 10% if the costs of assessment, collection, and disposition increase.
CB: One Hand On His Wallet — Honolulu Mayor Fights State For More Cash
read … 10% More for Rail
House committee wants to increase tax on luxury home sales
CB: The Hawaii House Committee on Water and Land has approved a bill to fund natural resource protection and increase the conveyance tax for high-end properties.
Some of the conveyance tax revenue is already being used to fund environmental protection, which includes protecting watersheds, and affordable housing….
The House Committee on Finance will hear the bill next and is likely to determine the specific amounts the tax would increase
read … Tax Increase to Line Enviros Pockets
Borreca Defends Molester Lobby
Synopsis: Anyone who is against me is a racist.
Best Comment: “When someone attacks the messenger, it is a clear indication that they cannot argue their opposing point of view.”
Reality: Child molester back at work at Hawaii Legislature
read … Some Ignorant Drivel Designed to Manipulate the Weak
So-Called Consumer Advocate: Oahu Residents Should Pick Up Tab For Aina Koa Pono Project
CB: Aina Koa Pono executives hope to build a biofuel plant in the Kau region of the Big Island. But the project has attracted local opposition, in part because Big Island residents, who pay some of the highest electricity rates in the state, don’t want to see their electricity bills go up.
Jeffrey Ono, the consumer advocate, feels their pain. In filings with the Public Utilities Commission, he recommends that Oahu residents cover the extra cost of the biofuel instead, which will raise residential electricity bills by about $1.16 a month.
HECO originally proposed that the premium for the biofuel be spread out among both Oahu and Big Island residents….
Ono also urged Aina Koa Pono to release the results of an environmental assessment of the project expeditiously. And he expressed disappointment that the energy developer hadn’t negotiated a community benefits package with local residents who will host the project, according to the PUC filing.
read … Reason for Impeachment
Legislators Yank Funding for UHH School of Pharmacy Building
HTH: Campus administrators are keeping their fingers crossed after the Legislature dropped from a working version of the state budget a request for $38 million to fund a new pharmacy school building at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
Representatives in the state House on Wednesday passed on their version of Hawaii’s $23.3 billion budget for fiscal years 2013-2015 and forwarded it on to the Senate, minus a line item that UH-Hilo and Big Island delegates have been requesting for years.
Administrators at UH-Hilo have said that failure to fund a facility for the fledgling college will result in the institution losing its accreditation.
Background: Mitsunaga Names Names, Slams UH for Favoritism Towards Kobayashi
read … Mitsunaga vs Kobayashi
Sand Island Business Association–Money & Politics
ILind: Officers and directors of the Sand Island Business Association contributed over $225,000 to a variety of political candidates and elected officials between 2006 and 2012, according to data from reports filed with the Campaign Spending Commission. The contributions came as they were trying to generate political pressure to force the Department of Land and Natural Resources to agree to a deal giving them fee-simple title to the 70 state-owned acres that make up the Sand Island Industrial Park.
It looks a lot like the same “make friends and rent influence” tactic SIBA used 25 years ago when it lobbied to obtain control of the property through a master lease and major financial concessions from the state, although at that time their actions were more flagrant and contributions more concentrated on key officials.
read … Fee Simple Conversion
Budget Actions in D.C. This Week Will Mean Tough Choices For Hawaii
CB: The Senate moved Monday night toward the passage of a temporary spending bill as early as Tuesday that lessens the chances of a government shutdown but leaves in place sequestration budget cuts and the furloughs associated with them.
In what’s expected to be a busy week, the Republican House and the Democratic Senate are also trying to pass their versions of full-year budgets, setting the stage for a budget battle this summer and fall that would have major implications for Hawaii.
read … Tough
Malulani Activist Endorses Banner Takeover of MMMC
HR: Banner, a good solid hospital, wants to take over Maui Memorial Medical Center.
What about Banner Health? I can tell you that on the mainland, Banner has a great reputation. Banner Health and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center opened the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center on Sept. 26, 2011, in Arizona. US News and World Report rated MD Anderson the number one in the country for cancer care.
read … Maui Needs a Better Healthcare System
Smart Grids Need to Be Evaluated With Cost Benefit Analysis
HR: SB 1040 defines "Advanced grid modernization technology" without including any references to costs or impacts.
read … Henry Curtis
Solid waste contract would cloud Hawaii County waste-to-energy
WHT: Hawaii County is poised to issue a 10-year contract to divert most of its waste from the county’s two landfills, a contract that would all but close the door on the prospects for a waste-to-energy facility that has been endorsed by Mayor Billy Kenoi.
The multimillion-dollar contract, for a private vendor to take organic waste that would otherwise be landfilled and make compost out of it to sell to the public, was solicited and then rejected last year. The County Council this year has considered and repeatedly postponed a resolution that would allow the Department of Environmental Management to go ahead with a multiyear contract….
Waste-to-energy isn’t considered cost-effective for a garbage stream of less than 500 tons per day, according to a spokesman for Waste Management Inc., which operates the plants in other states. Hawaii County’s current waste stream, before any organic waste is removed, is just under 200 tons per day at the Hilo landfill and just under 300 tons per day at the West Hawaii landfill….
read … And who is the organic contractor?
Honeytrap: Honolulu Defense Worker Charged with Nuclear Espionage
ABC: A defense contractor and former U.S. Army officer has been charged with communicating national defense secrets to a 27-year-old Chinese national with whom he had a romantic relationship. According to a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court Monday in Hawaii, Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, who held a Top Secret clearance, transmitted “national defense information regarding existing war plans, information regarding nuclear weapons, and relations with international partners,” to an email address known to be used by the woman referred to as “Person 1.”
Bishop met the woman during a conference on international military defense issues, and according to the complaint, she “may have been at the conference in order to target individuals such as Bishop who work with and have access to classified.” Court records state that Bishop maintained “an intimate, romantic relationship with Person 1 since June 2011,” and worked to hide that relationship from the U.S. Government.
LINK: Criminal complaint against Benjamin Bishop
SA: Defense worker in Hawaii gave nuke secrets to Chinese, FBI says
read … Honey trap