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Sunday, December 5, 2021
December 5, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:03 PM :: 1131 Views

OHA Report: Graft is ‘Courageous and Commendable’

Ending Government by Fiat

Legislature to Resume Awarding Grants-In-Aid

Kauai Wipes out 1,450 illegal TVRs

Five Ways To Make The Hawaii Legislature More Accountable

Hooser:  Idea No. 1 — Most bills introduced today by our elected members of the state House and Senate are killed without ever receiving even a single public hearing. Legislative rules in Hawaii allow the chair of a committee to unilaterally choose not to hear any bill referred to their committee.

This holds true even if the bill had successfully passed through numerous previous committees in both the House and the Senate. Any subsequent committee chair may simply refuse to hold a hearing, thus killing the bill without any explanation. The only way around this rule is via a floor motion and support of “one-third of the members to which the House or Senate is entitled vote in favor of the recall.”

Solution: Amend the legislative rules to require every bill to receive at least one hearing and be voted up or down. Yes, this would add to the work burden and extend the hearing schedules, but it’s an essential part of a true democratic process. Bills that are duplicative or very similar in nature could be grouped together and heard simultaneously, with a single bill emerging as the preferred “legislative vehicle.”

Note: Approximately 25% of state legislative chambers across the United States, in both red and blue states, require committees to hold hearings on every bill referred to them or if requested by the sponsor or, in some states, by any legislator. Furthermore, approximately one-half of the nation’s legislative chambers impose a deadline for committee action.

Idea No. 2 — Existing rules presently allow those bills that actually do receive a hearing to be killed by the chair without any member of that committee actually voting to kill them. Consequently, members are rarely “on record” voting against any bill. If the chair chooses not to pass a measure, they will simply “defer” the measure and no vote is taken.

Solution: Amend the legislative rules to require a recorded vote on every motion including a move to defer. If the committee agenda is particularly crowded, the chair or vice chair can simply ask, “Are there any ‘no’ votes?” If not, all will be recorded as an “aye.” This would add two minutes max to the process.

Idea No. 3 — It’s common practice now that when committee hearings are conducted, the chair at the conclusion of the hearing will orally announce various amendments to the bill, and a vote will be taken to approve those amendments — even though nothing in writing may have been provided to committee members (not to mention to the public).

I am told that in the “old days,” the chair was required to provide committee members and the public with any proposed amendments in advance so they would have time to review and perhaps comment or offer further amendments prior to the vote.

Solution: Change the rules to go back to the old days.

Idea No. 4 — According to existing practice, nearly every bill that moves through the legislative process is referred to the House Finance Committee whether or not it has a direct financial impact on the state budget. This grants the House Finance chair the unilateral authority to kill or amend every single bill whether it impacts the budget or not (see Ideas No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 above).

The measure could be one that is “pure policy” — for example, increasing or decreasing the requirements for a professional license; expanding or limiting pollution standards; or banning the sale of candy-flavored tobacco.

Historically, bills referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee have had to meet some threshold of “budget impact.” If a bill contains an “appropriation clause” and purports to actually expend state funds or increase State funds (via tax or fee increases), then a referral to WAM would be made. But if the bill was pure policy with no measurable or clear tangible impact on the budget, there is normally no referral to WAM.

Solution: Amend House rules to reflect the practice in the Senate.

Idea No. 5 — The 60,000-pound gorilla in the room: Too many decisions are made in the dark, away from sunshine and public oversight. The Hawaii State Constitution Article III, Section 12 states:

“Every meeting of a committee in either house or of a committee comprised of a member or members of both houses held for the purpose of making a decision on matters referred to the committee shall be open to the public.”

It’s common practice for committee members, certainly the chairs, to meet in private “for the purpose of making a decision on matters referred to the committee.” They meet in private, negotiate in private and agree on the outcomes in private, emerging from the closed private meetings to announce the outcome, then formally vote at the public meeting.

Solution: Do what the county councils do and conduct negotiations in public. Amend the state’s Sunshine Law and require at the minimum that committee chairs comply and stop cutting deals with each other in secret. Take a hard look at the Hawaii Constitution and conduct the people’s business accordingly.

In summary, the Hawaii legislative process as it’s now practiced insults and disempowers the public, grants far too much power to individual legislators and makes critically important decisions in secret.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A majority of members can change the rules and adopt a legislative budget and schedule to allow for the extra time (via additional recess days if needed, not extra “session” days) and the additional staffing needed….

read … Five Ways To Make The Hawaii Legislature More Accountable

Navy water sampling at Red Hill well showed petroleum contamination months ago

SA: … Water samples taken by the Navy at its Red Hill drinking water well showed petroleum contamination in July, August and September, according to test results made publicly available by the state Department of Health last week. Some of the samples exceeded the state’s threshold for what is typically considered safe….

After 27,000 gallons of fuel spilled from the Navy’s Red Hill Underground Fuel Facility in 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DOH required the Navy to conduct quarterly testing of the groundwater around the facility, which contains 20 massive underground fuel tanks located 2.5 miles from Pearl Harbor.

The Navy has been routinely testing its Red Hill drinking water shaft, as well as a series of monitoring wells that can help detect whether dangerous levels of fuel contamination are migrating toward drinking water wells….

After the Navy reported that hundreds of gallons of jet fuel had spilled from a pipeline at the Red Hill facility on May 6, state health officials say they pushed the Navy to ramp up testing to several times a week and now weekly.

But DOH claims it is has struggled to get the Navy to turn over the results, which the department says are typically ready in three to six weeks.

DOH said that on Nov. 24, the Navy finally provided it with four months of test results taken from samples collected in July through October, including the results showing petroleum contamination in the Red Hill shaft. DOH recently posted those results on its website and said it is still awaiting additional data from the Navy for September and October….

read … Navy water sampling at Red Hill well showed petroleum contamination months ago

Mayor Rick Blangiardi and Honolulu City Council dodge a rail reckoning with bogus math

Shapiro: … Mayor Rick Blangiardi and the City Council have written yet another blank check to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation despite its repeated malfeasance in handling Oahu rail money.

With Blangiardi’s encouragement, the Council voted 6-3 last week to give HART half of a new 3% city hotel room tax in perpetuity — estimated at $43 million a year to start — without an honest accounting of rail finances or a workable plan to finish the deficit- ridden commuter line from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center.

HART’s continuing free ride comes after it twice failed to live up to promises made when it received earlier bailouts from the state Legislature — also given without requiring any plan from the rail agency….

The hotel tax money would raise an estimated $1 billion if used to buy bonds. HART has offered no plan to cover the remaining deficit other than further creativity with the books, which it hopes will satisfy the Federal Transit Administration’s demand for an updated plan….

The scheme hatched by the politicians who took over the accounting arbitrarily reduced the projected cost to a laughable number they have about a .000095% chance of meeting.

The tragedy is that while the mayor, Council and HART directors treat the new hotel tax revenue as play money, it’s very real cash sorely needed for pressing city challenges such as public safety, climate change, homelessness, water and sewage, roads, park maintenance and tourism-related disruption in communities….

read … Mayor Rick Blangiardi and Honolulu City Council dodge a rail reckoning with bogus math

Meadow Gold seeks to expand processing plant

HTH: … According to Sadeghi, the expansion of the plant will allow Meadow Gold to broaden its product line as well as process a larger amount of milk and other products.

“We’re running practically 24/7 … fulfilling, as much as we can, the state’s requirement (of dairy products) — all out of Hilo,” Sadeghi said. “So, we really are busting at the seams, so to speak.”

Sadeghi said the facility in the Kanoelehua Industrial Area processes about 200,000 gallons of milk a month, with about 10%, or 20,000 gallons coming from Cloverleaf Dairy in Hawi, the only Hawaii dairy producing milk for commercial processing and retail sale.

He said the expansion of the plant would “bring back the culture” that existed prior to the shuttering of Meadow Gold’s Oahu processing facility.

Sadeghi said Meadow Gold also is planning to offer plant-based lines, such as soy, almond and macadamia-nut based beverages that the company hopes to roll out in the near future.

He said the Hilo plant currently is making ice cream mixes — although not the finished product — and other products “such as buttermilk, half-and-half and heavy whipping cream,” in addition to milk.

“We’ll definitely need more personnel … with the expansion and additional lines,” Sadeghi added, and said the company probably will hire “15 to 20 additional personnel” to accomplish the expansion. He said there are “around 30” people working at the Hilo facility at this time….

read … Meadow Gold seeks to expand processing plant

Council considers legislative priorities: Lifeguards, fees, fines, Juneteenth top list

HTH: … Increasing several fees and fines, limiting lifeguard liability and adding Juneteenth to the list of 13 state holidays are among eight priorities Hawaii’s four counties plan to present to the state Legislature.

The legislative session doesn’t start until Jan. 19, but the Hawaii County Council is gearing up by approving the counties’ recommendations compiled by the Hawaii State Association of Counties. The council will vote on the HSAC package Wednesday, and also that day, hear from Mayor Mitch Roth’s administration on his particular priorities….

Another perennial issue, changes to the state Sunshine Law to give county boards more flexibility, was not included in the HSAC package but is still under negotiations, Kimball said….

read … Council considers legislative priorities: Lifeguards, fees, fines, Juneteenth top list

‘The Other Pearl Harbor’ of data and seizure reverberates in today’s surveillance capitalism

SA: … This attack is etched out in a riveting new book published by University of Hawaii Press, “Remembering Our Grandfathers’ Exile: US Imprisonment of Hawai‘i’s Japanese in World War II,” written by my friend, Professor Emerita Gail Y. Okawa.

She spent 18 years tracing and chronicling the secretive arrest, interrogation, exile from Hawaii and incarceration of her grandfather, the Rev. Tamasaku Watanabe and other exiled Hawaii residents.

All had been handpicked by U.S. agents because they were community influencers described as “enemy aliens” suspected of disloyalty; all were first-generation Japanese immigrants — Issei — prohibited by law from becoming citizens. This roundup included priests, a coffee farmer, a newspaper editor and teachers. Citing others, Okawa notes that U.S. agents “seized more than seven thousand Japanese resident aliens from the continental United States and the Territories of Hawaii and Alaska.”…

Rounding up Watanabe and his fellow Issei so swiftly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor was made possible because decades earlier, the federal government began compiling dossiers of paper documents and photographs on selected individuals. “America did not develop a systematic national collection of criminal records until the 1930s,” writes Kenneth Laudon in “Dossier Society.”…

The roundup of Rev. Watanabe and other Issei gives a blueprint for today’s surveillance system of us by federal government agencies that can be linked to state and local data collections. This silent surveillance system has since the new millennium tremendously shifted power to the government and away from the very individuals who had once sought protection from it.

Paralleling this political shift in power is an evolving economic order called surveillance capitalism. It is “an economic system built on the secret extraction and manipulation of human data” globally to maximize profits, according to Shoshana Zuboff, a Harvard Business School professor emeritus, who wrote “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.”

She names the private surveillance corporations: Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple, five of the six largest publicly traded companies globally.

Like Rev. Watanabe 80 years ago, she notes, “Users did not suspect that their data was secretly hunted and captured from every corner of the internet and later from apps, smartphones, devices, cameras and sensors.”…

RELATED: Forgotten Honouliuli: Jack Burns, Police Spy

read … ‘The Other Pearl Harbor’ of data and seizure reverberates in today’s surveillance capitalism

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