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‘Understand the Enjoyment--We Are Royalty’: Legislators' Per Diem Cashflow Unsupervised and Undocumented
SA: … Neighbor island state senators and representatives continue to earn $225 for every day of the legislative session, weekends and even after the session — valued at nearly half of their $62,604 legislative salaries — even as some have criticized the possibility of legislative pay raises in July.
Several of the eight neighbor island senators and 16 neighbor island House members did not respond to requests for comment on their largely unrestricted per diems, including state Rep. Jeanne Kapela (D, Naalehu- Captain-Keauhou), who has criticized the possibility that legislators might accept a 10% pay raise on July 1 that was deferred last year during the economic calamity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even with the current, 95-day legislative session cut short by a week, neighbor island lawmakers can expect to receive $21,375 in per diems.
After the session, neighbor island House members also could be eligible for an additional $7,200 for working at the state Capitol, with approval from House Speaker Scott Saiki.
In May 2020, Saiki restricted the number of days that House members could seek per diem payments when the Legislature is not in session — to four days per month.
The per diems are in addition to neighbor island House members’ monthly airfare allowance of $1,000 for every month of the year.
The salaries and daily per diem rates are identical in the Senate, but the travel arrangements are different.
Neighbor island senators can take up to six round-trip flights per month during session and one round-trip flight per week when the Legislature is not in session, according to Senate spokesman Jacob Aki….
Last year the Legislature passed a bill that deferred increasing their salaries to $68,868 from $62,604 during Hawaii’s economic crisis triggered by COVID-19.
The pay raises instead would go into effect July 1, and there is no bill in the Legislature that would postpone them.
The House speaker and Senate president each earn additional pay of $7,500….
Neighbor island legislators are given lump sum per diem amounts during the legislative session and do not have to provide receipts or other documentation to be reimbursed for the actual cost of their expenses.
Asked why, Ruderman said, “There’s a culture of, ‘We are royalty. We are sovereign unto ourselves, and no one tells us what to do.’ People love that sense of privilege. I understand the enjoyment of it. But it goes too far in many cases. A little more oversight wouldn’t be a terrible thing.”…
“There’s very little oversight. No one checks how you spend it.”….
read … Neighbor island lawmakers’ per diem overlooked as 10% raise could go into effect
Honolulu rail’s future tied to questions of federal obligation
SA: … Joe Uno, a member of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s board of directors, has been frustrated in trying to get the board to discuss ideas for an unspecified “Plan C” for how to complete and fund the city’s troubled rail project, which faces a budget shortfall of $3.68 billion.
HART board Chairman Tobias Martyn has repeatedly told Uno that board members first need to be “educated” on the city’s obligations under the so-called “Full Funding Grant Agreement” between the city and the Federal Transit Administration.
So Uno was disappointed that a briefing on the FTA obligations was not scheduled for this month’s board or committee meetings and has yet to be scheduled for any public meetings in April.
Without a discussion on the implications of the Full Funding Grant Agreement first, there will be no discussion about alternatives, leading to even more delays on how to proceed, Uno said….
read … Honolulu rail’s future tied to questions of federal obligation
Solar water tax break program dims
HTH: … The County Council will soon be considering a bill eliminating a tax break for property owners who install solar hot water panels on their property.
Bill 28, sponsored by Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung on the recommendation of the Real Property Tax Review Working Group, is likely to come up when the council meets early next month….
The solar program, which started in 2008, offers a one-time, up to $300 credit off property taxes for those installing a solar water heater. It applies only to retrofitting existing homes, as all new buildings have been required to have solar hot water installed since 2012.
“It was recommended by the working group (to abolish it). In the past that exemption was used as an incentive for people to use that type of water heating but now its required by the building code, there’s no reason to provide an incentive,” Chung said….
read … Solar water tax break program dims
Social services should respond to homeless cases, Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard says
SA: … Ballard doesn’t want a new division to deal with homelessness. She wants social services to take on a greater role in responding to calls related to homelessness.
“We should not be creating a whole separate (police) unit for addressing the homelessness,” Ballard told the Police Commission. “The police interaction should be coming less and less, and the social services coming more and more.” …
read … Social services should respond to homeless cases, Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard says
HB1176: Spend Your Tax Dollars to Create make-Work Jobs for Telescope Protesters
CB: … Mariah Haʻo had worked in the hospitality industry for eight years when she quit her job as food and beverage manager at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort to join the protests over the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea in 2019.
Nine months later, when the coronavirus pandemic prompted protesters to disband their camps on the dormant volcano in March 2020, Haʻo found herself a changed woman with a renewed connection to the natural world.
Hawaii and the hospitality industry had dramatically changed, too.
“When I came down from the Mauna, I expected that I could find a job immediately, that I could go back to the hotel industry,” said Haʻo, 28. “But it was the high peak of COVID and I was stuck. I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed workers to pivot to new jobs and industries.
In Hawaii, the virus all but toppled the tourism industry that buoys the state economy, driving up unemployment and underscoring a need to grow a more diversified workforce.
To temper heightened joblessness, state lawmakers last year funneled approximately $8 million in grants from the federal CARES Act fund to match nearly 1,000 displaced workers with temporary gigs, health insurance and career training.
Now Hawaii lawmakers are considering legislation that would create a permanent state jobs corps to address coronavirus-related unemployment and support a more diversified economy. The program would be open to residents seeking education and training opportunities in conservation, agriculture, technology and green energy….
Reality for those few who can handle it: “State unemployment policies, plus federal plus-ups, have created a financial incentive for people not to work yet still get paid”
read … Should Hawaii Invest To Help Workers Displaced By The Pandemic Find New Careers?
Aiea fatal shooting victim was ex-gang member who turned his life around, worked with troubled youth
SA: … Deborah Spencer-Chun, president and CEO of Adult Friends for Youth, identified the man as Malakai Maumalanga, who served as the nonprofit’s director of redirectional services.
Maumalanga was arrested at 18 in connection with a gang-related drive-by shooting and went to prison.
Adult Friends for Youth, a group that Maumalanga first became acquainted with at age 13, helped mentor him to recovery. The nonprofit, which was seeded in 1985 with a federal grant, runs programs and services aimed at keeping youth in school and out of prison. It works closely with law enforcement and other social service providers.
Maumalanga was such a success story that he was hired by Adult Friends for Youth in 2002 and earned his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in social work. At the time of his death, he directly reported to Spencer-Chun, his former Adult Friends for Youth counselor.
read … Aiea fatal shooting victim was ex-gang member who turned his life around, worked with troubled youth
Police break up another large concert in Kapolei as partiers ignore COVID rules
HNN: … Christian Peter Ulufanua, 27, was arrested for disorderly conduct at the event, and breaking the current COVID restrictions on gatherings….
Video of the concert on social media showed a full scale event with a stage, lights and no social distancing. Video also showed the host announcing to the crowd the moment HPD showed up and shut down the event.
This event was promoted to be held at Coral Crater Adventure Park, which was the Midway Road address listed for the arrest.
Ulufanua claims he worked with HPD to put the event on safely, but shut it down immediately when he was told to by police.
This is the second incident this month that has raised concerns among the community, prompting calls for event promoters to be held responsible.
Last week, Grammy-nominated rapper Swae Lee performed at a concert in Waianae. The promoter for that event, Josh Holly, said he didn’t see the concert as a safety hazard, and just wanted everyone to have a good time.
“We tired of being stuck in the house and have to follow all these procedures and having to wait for things to reach different tiers,” Holly previously told Hawaii News Now. “We were like, ‘Man we young, we wild, we just want to go out and have fun’ so that’s what kind of we did.” …
read … Police break up another large concert in Kapolei as partiers ignore COVID rules
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