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Sunday, December 15, 2019
December 15, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:25 PM :: 1739 Views

OIP Strips Back OHA Censorship

Ranking Property Taxes on the 2020 State Business Tax Climate Index

“Piling On” to Transient Vacation Rentals

Election Year Makes Telescope Action Unlikely

Borreca: … Perhaps the longest-running catastrophe is the failure to control the costs for the Honolulu rail system. First boosted by former Mayor Mufi Hannemann, rail is now seeing the once-fervent Mayor Kirk Caldwell expressing more doubts about construction plans for finishing the final four miles. Just the problems presented by building on Dillingham Boulevard above Honolulu’s main waterline and below Hawaiian Electric’s 138 kV power lines were described in the city’s environmental impact statement as “unique and of extraordinary impact.”

This year marks the first time that the city has used its own money to pay for a portion of the $9 billion project. A total of $92 million in city money will now go to rail, money that presumably could have gone for swings in parks, repairs to frequently closed swimming pools and more police on patrol. Many critics expect that more city money and not just the general excise tax surcharge will have to go for the over-budget project….

The second long-lingering worry of 2019 is: Will Hawaii build Mauna Kea’s Thirty Meter Telescope? The TMT issue has become political TNT, after Gov. David Ige announced this summer that the trucks would roll and construction would start on what would be the biggest and best telescope in the world. Well, that didn’t happen. Just as in 2014 and 2015, blockades, protests and road closures have again stalled the $1.4 billion project.

As protesters gathered this summer, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that “Helmets and long batons have been issued to officers who expect to be deployed to the protests, and police vans that can be used to transport officers or arrested protesters were shipped last week from Oahu to Hilo.”

The protests grew, becoming a genuine Hawaiian movement, and Ige and Big Island Mayor Harry Kim wavered, declining to press forward or retreat. As 2020 is an election year, action is unlikely, raising the probability that TMT’s backers will quit Hawaii, which is where some 3,000 will attend the 235th conference of the American Astronomical Society meeting at the Hawai‘i Convention Center from Jan. 4-8, 2020….

read … Big issues of 2019 will carry into 2020

Effort to improve policy on sexual harassment in limbo in the Senate

SA: … Almost two years after the Legislature began reviewing its sexual harassment policies in the wake of the #MeToo movement and forced resignation of House Speaker Joe Souki amid complaints by several women that he had made unwanted sexual advances toward them, the Senate still hasn’t adopted a new policy.

Sen. Laura Thielen (D, Hawaii Kai-Waimanalo- Kailua), who has been pushing for improvements to the policy, said she’s particularly concerned because the Senate’s current policy doesn’t cover cases in which lobbyists or other third parties who do work before the Senate are sexually harassed — as she had previously believed….

Thielen said attorneys working with the Senate had advised her about a year ago that the current policy doesn’t cover third parties. In January, she sent a memo to Senate President Ron Kouchi urging him to update the policy, but said she never received a response.

Kouchi did not respond to interview requests for this story. But his office said Kouchi believes a new draft will clarify that third parties are covered. He plans to put the plan before the Senate for adoption this upcoming legislative session, which begins in January, his office said….

The Senate’s sexual harassment policy, however, can be confusing. It states that “harassment can occur between Senate members and staff members, as well as between supervisors or subordinates of the Senate, or vendors or lobbyists.”

Thielen said she was therefore surprised when an attorney conducting sexual harassment training for the Senate told her that the policy didn’t actually protect vendors or lobbyists. Rather, it only appears to protect employees of the Senate from harassment from those third parties.

Thielen said she had previously thought the Senate’s policy was a good one. Indeed, it was used as an example by the National Conference of State Legislatures as a strong policy….

Currently, the two-page policy can be found on page 54 of a 123-page document on the Senate’s website under the title Administrative and Financial Manual…. 

SA Editorial: Don’t let up against sex harassment

Background:

read … Effort to improve policy on sexual harassment in limbo in the Senate

Massive Property Tax Hike Planned for Kauai

TGI:  … Bill No. 2767 to ensure that all vacation rentals and hotels/resorts are paying the appropriate (higher) property tax rate to provide adequate and equitable funding for our island’s infrastructure needs (whatever) ….

Currently, if someone lives on the same property as their TVR or hotel/resort, instead of getting taxed at the higher vacation rental ($9.85 per $1k assessed value) or hotel/resort ($10.85) tax rates, they are getting taxed at the commercialized home use ($5.05) rate, which is the same rate applied to residents who operate a long-term rental or office from their home.

Many properties have multiple TVR units on one lot, and since the homeowner lives on the property, they are eligible for the lower commercialized home use rate instead of the vacation rental rate. That means that they’re paying the same rate for multiple TVRs as someone who long-term rents or works out of a portion of their property. And, under the current tax code, it’s even possible for the owner of a hotel or resort to move onto the premises and then cut the entire resort tax rate in half to the same rate that residents pay for a long-term rental in their own home.

If passed, our bill would close these loopholes and simply ensure that all TVRs or hotels/resorts get taxed at the respective vacation rental or hotel/resort rate.

If this bill passes, vacation-rental operators who do not want to pay the $9.85 vacation rental property-tax rate can continue paying the $5.05 commercialized home use rate if they use their unit as a long-term rental home rather than a short-term vacation rental. Vacation-rental operators can achieve the even-lower $3.05 homestead rate by renting their unit affordably to a Kauai family via the county’s existing long-term, affordable-rental program. Bill No. 2767, therefore, ensures that all TVRs are more fairly contributing to the cost of tourism-related infrastructure and services, while further providing incentives for TVR units to be converted to long-term rentals for Kauai residents.

This bill will not solve our housing crisis or bring balance to our tourism industry, but we (can’t pass up any opportunity to grab mo’ money)….

read … Councilmembers explain property-tax bill

Hawaii County Building Code: How to Drive Construction Costs Higher

HTH: … “The IECC was so restrictive, people told us we’ve got to make some changes to it,” Lee Loy said.

Staffers at Lee Loy’s office and the Department of Public Works — along with dozens of others on both sides of the island — worked for four months to determine how architects, developers, electricians and more are affected by the IECC, whose policies sometimes seem designed more for construction on the mainland than the island, Lee Loy said.

The result is a bill enumerating 46 different amendments to the 2015 IECC, ranging from the seemingly trivial to the technical.

For example, the bill proposes several exceptions to the code’s requirements for insulation and air conditioning, instead emphasizing the implementation of passive temperature control methods like reflective surfaces and larger windows. Under these exceptions, small businesses up to 2,500 square feet could remain within the code’s tropical zone categorization, which would also be expanded to encompass residences up to 5,000 feet above sea level.

Other changes include an exception from the code’s window heat requirements for jalousie windows, a requirement for hotel rooms to include door switches that turn off a room’s air conditioning if the lanai door is open, and a requirement for new single-family residences to use solar water heating for at least 90 percent of the home’s water heating needs.

(Solar hot water system required in Hilo and Puna.  Add $10K for system that doesn’t work in the rain.)

Many of these changes are based on amended conservation codes implemented by Maui and Kaui counties, Lee Loy said, adding that Oahu is working on similar changes to its own code as well. However, she continued, she believes Bill 126 take those amendments further.

“It would not surprise me if the other counties look at our code and take some things from it later on,” Lee Loy said….

the Hawaii State Energy Office having written a letter in strong support of the bill earlier this month. That letter specifically lauds several of the proposed amendments, including the expansions to the tropical zone categorization, which it claims could allow a home to use 48 percent less energy than if it were compliant with the base 2015 IECC….

(Translation: More mandated costs up front in exchange for theoretical cost reductions.)

Meanwhile: Housing ‘for the greater good’

read … Unaffordable

Creagan: The Legislature Didn’t ban Herbicide but The County Council Should

WHT: … I am currently chair of the Agriculture Committee in our House of Representatives. Last legislative session we introduced a bill to restrict or eliminate the use of glyphosate on public school grounds in our state. The legislation was deferred because of (insert excuse here).

Bill 101 similarly strives to protect the most vulnerable and least powerful of our citizens and I am asking our Hawaii Council to stand firm in that cause and override Mayor Kim’s veto of Bill 101.

SA: Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim vetoes herbicide measure

read … Creagan Whines about Herbicide Veto

Lanes on Nimitz are getting smaller as rail moves closer to town

HNN: … The rail authority says the road is being re-striped from Awa Street to Bishop Street. The lanes will shrink from 12 feet to 10 feet to make way for utility relocation crews as rail construction nears the Downtown.

To complete the work, crews will have to close up to two lanes in each direction at a time.

The work begins Dec. 6 and will last 2 or 3 weeks. The closures will run from 5:30 p.m. to 5 a.m….

read … Lanes on Nimitz are getting smaller as rail moves closer to town

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