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Thursday, February 11, 2021
February 11, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:58 PM :: 875 Views

Poll: 91% Want COVID Vax

Legislature Ignores Potential $850M Self-Insurance Savings

The ‘Other’ Side are Idiots

To What Extent Does Your State Rely on Individual Income Taxes?

What Screw-up has DHHL Made?

SB134: Senate Panel Moves To End Suspension Of Public Records Law

CB: … Hawaii lawmakers are a step closer to lifting Gov. David Ige’s nearly year-long suspension of laws meant to provide transparency to the government.

The Senate Health Committee on Wednesday unanimously voted to advance Senate Bill 134, which would prohibit the governor and county mayors from using emergency powers to suspend access to public records and vital public health statistics.

Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole, chairman of the health committee, said that while it’s important for the executive branch to have powers that help to deal with emergency situations, discussing the limits of those powers is also important.

“When we have an extended emergency period like we’ve had so far — where some semblance of life, albeit altered, has returned back to normal — I do think its appropriate for us to have a discussion about appropriate guardrails of that emergency authority,” Keohokalole said shortly before the vote….

Ige first suspended the public records law and Hawaii’s meetings law in March. He partially walked back that suspension in April.

More than 20 legislators indicated in questionnaires last year that they did not support Ige’s suspension of the records law. But earlier this year, leaders in the Legislature were not sure whether or not a measure to overturn the suspension would gain traction….

SB 134, introduced by Sen. Dru Kanuha, received written testimony in support from the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest, the Society of Professional Journalists Hawaii Chapter, the news blog All Hawaii News, the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, the Big Island Press Club and two individuals.

Kanuha’s office said he wasn’t available to talk about SB 134. But in a written statement he said he introduced the bill because one of his constituents couldn’t get documentation they needed for a new job and was ultimately unable to secure the position.

No one opposed the bill at Wednesday’s hearing. And while the state Office of Information Practices took no position on the measure, Cheryl Kakazu Park, the OIP director, wrote a six-page letter to lawmakers detailing the office’s and the public’s struggle dealing with the suspension of the Uniform Information Practices Act, the formal name for the public records law.

The office is still having trouble getting agencies to provide substantive responses to UIPA appeals, Park wrote in testimony to lawmakers. Without those responses, the OIP has trouble determining whether or not an agency had the right to withhold records requests.

Park notes that while many agencies have responded to records requests in a timely manner, others have not and don’t plan to while the law is suspended…

“Some unanswered UIPA requests of particularly high public interest have been reported on in the media, while many other unanswered requests are of interest only to the requester. The UIPA’s purpose, however, is to give the public access to government records regardless of whether the request is of high public interest or specifically of interest mainly just to the requester, and for many requesters the UIPA has not been fulfilling that purpose over the past year,” Park wrote.

In addition to prying open the records law, SB 134 would also prevent the governor and mayors from withholding public health statistics….

SB134: Text, Status

Related: Suspension Of Hawaii’s Open Government Laws is More Extreme Than Other States.

Related: OIP: Under Emergency Order, UIPA Still has Some Teeth

read … Senate Panel Moves To End Suspension Of Public Records Law

SB720: Proposed bill would make County Councils Just as Secretive as the Legislature

HTH: … A bill that would all-but-exempt county councils from the state’s open meetings law, also known as the “Sunshine Law,” is set to receive a hearing today.

Senate Bill 720, co-introduced by Sens. J. Kalani English and Gilbert Keith-Agaran, both Maui Democrats, and Oahu Democrats Michelle Kidani, Donna Mercado Kim and Bennette Misalucha, is scheduled to be heard at 1:30 p.m. today by the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs….

If passed, the bill “authorizes county council members to caucus during official council meetings.”

Currently under the Sunshine Law, a limit of two members of a council or a governmental board can discuss between themselves matters relating to official business, as long as the two members don’t constitute a forum. The only exceptions are to discuss confidential personnel matters and litigation.

The measure would add a paragraph to Hawaii Revised Statutes 92-2.5, permitted actions of members, to read: “The presiding member of a county council meeting may temporarily recess the meeting, during which members may conduct discussion off the record.”

Sen. Joy San Buenaventura of Puna has signed on to the bill as a supporter, as have Sens. Clarence Nishihara, Maile Shimabukuro, Brian Taniguchi and Glenn Wakai, all Oahu Democrats.

“I generally support the intent — the temporary recess during which they conduct discussions off the record,” San Buenaventura said Tuesday. “It’s kind of similar to what we do in the Legislature. … The decision is made on the record. The testimony that is presented to the council is also on the record, so you know what decision is made.

“The reason I support the intent is it allows for members to try to persuade other members to their point of view without having that discussion be on the record.”

San Buenaventura said she doesn’t favor “lifting the Sunshine Law, altogether.”

“But in the very limited interactions among members prior to the decision, where it looks like it’s a temporary recess during the meeting (with) everything else the same, yeah. For me, it allows for more freer discussion,” she said.

The Legislature exempted itself from the Sunshine Law when Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 92 was enacted in 1975.

An alleged breach of the state’s Sunshine Law by illegal caucus during preliminary council confirmation hearings of County Planning Director Zendo Kern is the subject of a lawsuit brought Feb. 2 by Hilo attorney Charles Heaukulani….

UPDATE: Proposed ‘Sunshine Law’ exemption has hasty demise

SA: Hawaii lawmakers scrap bill exempting counties from Sunshine Law

SB720: Text, Status

read … Proposed bill would erode public’s ‘right to know’

HB349 / SB282: Automatic Voter Registration

CB: … That idea is automatic voter registration, already passed by 23 states and the District of Columbia. Speaker Scott Saiki clearly sees its value, having just authored HB 349, while long time champion of the issue, Sen. Karl Rhoads, is shepherding SB 282. This is encouraging.

The idea is as simple as it is smart: The Department of Motor Vehicles would electronically submit to election officials updated information for voter registration of U.S. citizens whenever citizens apply for or renew their driver’s license or state ID. Applicants can choose to opt out and not have their information transmitted if they have no desire to exercise their right to vote….

read … Automatic Voter Registration: Its Time Has Come

Tax the Poor: State Lottery To Fund Public Education Moves Forward

CB: … Winning final passage may be a long shot, but the Senate Education Committee tentatively approved a plan Wednesday to create a commission to stand up a state lottery to help fund public education in Hawaii.

The lottery could be operating as early as Jan. 1, 2023, but Senate Bill 816 leaves it up to the five-member commission to make rules and determine exactly how the game would be run.

At least 45% of the revenue from the lottery would be paid out in prizes, while another 40% would be divided up between the University of Hawaii system, the public school system and the state general fund, according to the bill….

SB816: Text, Status

SA: Hawaii gambling bills stall, lottery hopes amended to 2023

read … State Lottery To Fund Public Education Moves Forward

Nearly half of residents 75 and up have gotten at least 1 vaccine dose

HNN: … Nearly half of Hawaii residents who are 75 and up have now received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

The state said Wednesday that about 50,500 seniors who are 75 and up have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine. Statewide, about 107,600 residents fall into the category.

Meanwhile, nearly 11% of the total population has been vaccinated with at least one dose.

The state said that as of Wednesday, it had administered 218,997 doses of the vaccine.

That’s about 75% of all the doses ordered….

read … Nearly half of residents 75 and up have gotten at least 1 vaccine dose

State figures: Thousands in Hawaii are overdue for second dose of vaccine

HNN: … Preliminary numbers from the state show thousands who have had their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine have not yet followed up for a second dose.

Statistics posted Wednesday show 153,000 people in Hawaii have gotten the first shot of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine since they were first available. Only 48,500 have received a second shot.

The exact number of people who have not received their second dose on time is not yet known because of delays in vaccine reporting. But the state figures show the figure is in the thousands.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who is also a medical doctor, said two shots are essential for the highest level of protection against the virus.

“The first shot gives you 50% immunity that second shot from Moderna and Pfizer gets you well over 90%,” Green said.

The time between each dose varies by brand ― 21 days if you received the Pfizer version and 28 if it was the Moderna version.

Other states that track such data show similar drop-offs….

read … State figures: Thousands in Hawaii are overdue for second dose of vaccine

Essential Workers: Sign up Here for Vaccination

HNN: … Organizations with frontline essential workers are urged to fill out a form on the state’s website to begin the process. Employers will be asked to identify those most at risk.

The DOH defines frontline essentials as those “whose duties must be performed on-site and require being in close proximity to the public or coworkers, and are essential to the functioning of society.”

If an employee fits into the Phase 1B category, they will be further stratified into priority groups….

Baehr said they have reached out to some agencies directly while others must fill out the form.

Baehr said anyone can fill out the survey, even independent workers….

The department doesn’t actually have a final plan for distribution but an executive summary and a clear idea for direction. They said they’re waiting for additional guidance from the CDC.

The executive summary of that plan can be found here….

read … This is how the Health Department determines which essential workers get vaccinated

Mauna Kea management to be outlined before BLNR

SA: … With management of the Mauna Kea summit coming under mounting criticism, the Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday will hear the results of a report that gave the University of Hawaii mixed reviews for its oversight of the mountain….

Elsewhere, a lawsuit brought by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs aiming to wrest some control of the summit away from the university is being litigated in First Circuit Court….

Related: Maunakea: What’s Really Sacred is the Master Lease

read … Mauna Kea management to be outlined before BLNR

Aloha Stadium officials say facility needs overdue repairs to host fans (yada yada)

SA: … Without a significant amount of investment in repair and maintenance, the operation of the current Aloha Stadium will be without fans in the stands, officials acknowledged to lawmakers on Wednesday.

(Translation: This is a re-hash of the bogus arguments used to con you into supporting their new stadium boondoggle.)

In testimony before the state Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development and Tourism, Stadium Manager Scott Chan and deputy manager Ryan Andrews painted a grim picture of the decrepit 46-year-old facility.

(IQ Test: Are you surprised?)

Andrews said the last full structural integrity assessment of the facility was completed in 2018, and, “There was a whole laundry list of areas that needed to be addressed.”

(Yes we know.  The Stadium Authority has been using this as an excuse for their new stadium boondoggle ever since.)

He said there were several areas deemed critical “that had to be addressed in a 24-month period and, unfortunately, (fortunately) those 24 months have come and gone and those items weren’t funded or repaired so they exist today.”

Although the stadium sought at least $50 million in health and safety funding over a three-year period, officials said the facility did not receive any appropriations for the work.

(Translation: We rigged the bidding to ensure there were no bids.)

Andrews said, “So we need to have another assessment to see what has taken place before we can allow people back in the facility.” But, Andrews cautioned, “We run the risk of learning even more about the facility. Additional items (of concern) could be identified.”…

(Better Idea: Fire the Stadium Authority and replace them with officials who actually want to maintain the facility instead of using it to gin up CIP and developer giveaways.)

Between 2008 and 2017 reports indicate the state spent $98 million on health and safety issues at the stadium and a 2017 report by forensic structural analysts (development salesmen) hired by the state warned that $300 million in critical health and safety repairs — and an additional $121 million to address ADA standards — would be needed to keep the stadium fully operational for more than a decade. The report noted that a new stadium could be built for $324.5 million in 2017 dollars.

(IQ Test: Do you believe their ‘forensic structural analysts?)

KHON: Aloha Stadium officials confirm notion of venue’s current unsafe status for fans

read … Aloha Stadium officials say facility needs overdue repairs to host fans

Hawaii woman charged in connection to Michael Miske case

KHON: … A Hawaii woman is facing a federal charge of using a chemical weapon in connection to the Michael Miske case, prosecutors said on Wednesday, Feb. 10.

Federal prosecutors said, Ashlin Akau allegedly released the chemical chloropicrin into a Honolulu nightclub in 2017.

Court filings report Akau’s case is tied to the case against Oahu business owner Michael Miske. Miske is accused of being the ringleader of an alleged crime ring known as “Miske Enterprise.”…

read … Hawaii woman charged in connection to Michael Miske case

Massive Homeless Ticket Diversion Program Gets only 50 Bums off Street

CB: … A state-funded program intended to steer homeless people from the criminal justice system and into housing, addiction treatment and mental health care failed to meet its core mission after a two-year pilot in Honolulu. 

The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program was intended to give a choice to homeless people accused of minor crimes: Accept a criminal citation or cooperate with a caseworker who could refer them to services. For those who accepted assistance, the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s office would agree to waive the filing of the criminal charge. 

The problem is that the Honolulu Police Department and prosecutor’s office never got on board with LEAD, according to a program evaluation by a University of Hawaii researcher (who points out that 78% of the bums are on meth.)….

(Translation: As always, failure leads to finger-pointing.)

 …  In the end, 50 people were enrolled in LEAD, and their participation in case management yielded mixed results. …

“One man who we met in Aala Park, he was in a wheelchair and couldn’t even stand up because of congestive heart failure,” Lusk said. “He’d been there for 17 years, substance use, smoking, lots of challenges. He got into LEAD. He’s now in permanent housing, in recovery for substance use (and) he stopped smoking through our program.” 

However, there were also increases in alcohol use and the number of “physically unhealthy days.”…

Lusk said she’s spoken to Alm about pursuing LEAD as it was originally intended. A probation advocate, Alm often speaks positively about efforts to divert low-level offenders from prison into programs that can address their underlying challenges. 

Matthew Dvonch, Alm’s special counsel, said in a statement that the office is “taking a look at the LEAD program, why it never got off the ground here, and whether it’s something our office will ultimately pursue.” He declined an interview request. …

HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu said in an email that officers have been involved with referring homeless people to services for years through the Health, Efficiency, Long-term Partnerships program, also known as HELP. HPD has also begun working with newly elected Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm’s office to discuss the next steps for LEAD. 

“The previous prosecutors’ administration did not support LEAD,” Yu said…. 

(CLUE: This does not explain the scant results attained by LEAD on the Sister Isles.)

LEAD was started in Seattle in 2011 and showed positive results that have become a national model. When people previously arrested for drug-related and prostitution offenses were diverted to services, they were 60% less likely to be arrested in the subsequent six months compared to a control group, according to a University of Washington evaluation of Seattle’s LEAD program….

(Translation: Seattle is a disaster and the ‘evaluation’ looks at the result for those diverted rather than the number of bums who were diverted from the streets.)

read … Finger-Pointing

COVID Release: Maui woman accused of pointing loaded gun at victim

HNN: … Melanie Sauer, 49, was arrested last Tuesday in Makawao and charged with assault, terroristic threatening and firearms offenses. Authorities say the gun was loaded and it was reported stolen in West Virginia.

It was not registered in Hawaii.

A Maui judge has since granted Sauer supervised release.

The prosecutor and the attorney for the victim say Sauer is a danger to the community.

“It’s astounding that she’s carrying a concealed weapon that’s not registered to her. That she brought it illegally into the state and she pointed a loaded gun at someone’s head and threatened to shoot them and she’s been allowed out on supervised release,” said defense attorney Myles Breiner.

Deputy Prosecutor Lewis Littlepage called the suspect “a danger to the community.” …

Littlepage said he understands the court must consider the pandemic is considering release.

“But someone who is carrying a loaded firearm that can be concealed easily in just a fanny pack … they are an extreme danger to the public,” he said….

read … Attorneys question release of Maui woman accused of pointing loaded gun at victim

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